XXXIV - 12 (01)
what of the night?”
"The hour has come, the hour is
striking and striking at you,
In 1888, the Church had three messengers, none of whom claimed infallibility. In 1903, the first "messenger" wrote:
the year 1846 until the present time, I have received messages from the Lord,
and have communicated them to the people. This is my work to give to the people
the light that God gives to me. I am commissioned to receive and communicate
His messages. I am not to appear before the people as ho!ding any other position than that of a messenger
with a message. (St. Helena,
In 1888, God sent two other "messengers" to the Church with a specific message. Reviewing this commission, Ellen White wrote:
The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is manifest in obedience to all of the commandments of God. (TM, pp. 91-92)
In the same testimony, it was noted: "It is the perpetual life of the church to love God supremely, and to love others as they love themselves." But in 1888, there was little of this love manifest in the Church, so "God gave to His messengers just what the people needed" (ibid., p. 95) Then the question was asked, "How long will you hate and despise the messengers of God's righteousness?" (p. 96).
There can be little doubt, that Ellen G. White who recognized her commission as a "messenger" also recognized Jones and Waggoner as commissioned "messengers" with a specific message for the Church. The question, though asked, has not been researched nor answered as to why God chose two other "messengers" to give the message of justification by faith instead of the first "messenger"? Further, while the two "messengers" of 1888 emphasized the "gospel" of the Three Angels' Messages of Revelation 14, during the same period, the first "messenger" was counselling the Church on an attitude and condition of mind which has been as much spurned as was the message of righteousness by faith itself, as given by Jones and Waggoner. Only the aspect of righteousness by faith has been brought to the forefront by the challenge of Wieland and Short in 1950.
the admonition was given - "Let no one come to the conclusion that there
is no more truth to be revealed" (Counsels
on Sabbath School Work, p.34). Two years prior, a brother had asked Ellen
White, "Do you think we must understand the truth for ourselves? Why can't
we take the truth that others have gathered together, and believe them?"
To this she wrote - "It is dangerous to make flesh our arm. We should lean
upon the arm of Infinite Power. God has been revealing this to us for years. We must have living faith in our hearts and reach out for larger
knowledge and more advanced light" (R&H,
The messages of the three "messengers are congruent. Each is a part of the whole. The righteousness of Christ was declared to be "pure, unadulterated truth" (TM, p. 65), and the truth was declared to be "an advancing truth" with the counsel, "we must walk in the increasing light" (op. cit, R&H). Lest, we would conclude that this counsel was being directed solely toward those opposing Jones and Waggoner, and that "the advancing light" was only in reference to the message of righteousness by faith - which it did in-
clude - Ellen White wrote:
There is no excuse for anyone in taking the position that there is no more truth to be revealed, and that all our expositions of Scripture are without error. The fact that certain doctrines have been held as truth for many years by our people is not proof that our ideas are infallible. Age will not make error into truth, and truth can afford to be fair. No true doctrine will lose anything by close investigation. (R&H, Dec.20, 1892).
have many lessons to learn, and many, many to unlearn. God and heaven alone are
infallible. Those who think that they will never have to give up a cherished view, never have an occasion to change an opinion, will be
disappointed. As long as we hold to our own ideas and opinions with determined
persistency, we cannot have the unity for which Christ prayed. (R&H,
Here is the crux of our problem - "the unity for which Christ prayed." It is so desperately needed among the fragmented segments of Adventism, yet it is among these segments that the "determined persistency" which opposes that unity is most visibly seen. We may proclaim the 1888 Message and form a committee for its promotion, yet if we are not willing to walk in the advancing light of truth which leads to a "pure, unadulterated truth," we in reality do not have the righteousness of Christ manifest in a living and working faith. The message of two messengers may be given, but failure to heed the message of the third leaves a void which nullifies "the unity for which Christ prayed."
Then there are those who profess to be upholding the "historic" faith, who not only know little of what righteousness by faith means, but also reject any advancing light of truth. They remain in the same Laodicean state out of which they profess to have come. Tragically, they have attached "works" as well as "hobby horses" to their confession of faith and are riding them "like the ride of Paul Revere." But it is not leading to "the unity for which Christ prayed." In the Review & Herald (July 26, 1892) in which is found the challenge - "We have many lessons to learn, arid many, many to unlearn" - are also found the directives of how "the unity for which Christ prayed" may be realized.
The question is first asked "How shall we search the Scriptures?" This is the first hurdle today, that evidently was not a stumbling block in 1892. Today, the question which dominates is "What do the Writings teach?" before we even open the Bible. The question the first messenger noted as the beginning point to achieve the unity for which Christ prayed, is "How shall we search the Scriptures?" and she made it clear that she meant the Bible. She observed that "many who read and even teach the Bible, do not comprehend the precious truth they are teaching or studying."
After asking the first question, the first "messenger of the Lord" questioned:
Shall we drive our stakes of doctrine one after another, and then try to make all Scripture meet our established opinions, or shall we take our ideas and views to the Scriptures, and measure our theories on every side by the Scriptures of truth?
The answer is obvious. The Bible determines truth, not our own ideas and opinions. "Men entertain errors, when the truth is clearly marked out, and if they would bring their doctrines to the word of God, and not read the word of God in the light of their doctrines, to prove their ideas right, they would not walk in darkness or blindness, or cherish error. Many give the words of Scripture a meaning that suits their own opinions, and they mislead themselves and deceive others by their misinterpretation of God's word." (ibid.)
How then are we to study the Word so as to attain "the unity for which Christ prayed"?
As we take up the study of God's word, we should do so with humble hearts. All selfishness, all love of originality, should be laid aside. Long-cherished opinions must not be regarded as infallible. It was the unwillingness of the Jews to give up their long-established traditions that proved their ruin. They were determined not to see any flaw in their own opinions or in their interpretations of the Scriptures; but however long men may have entertained certain views, if they are not clearly sustained by the written word, they should be discarded. (ibid.)
This last step will be most difficult to take. To discard the many, many things that must be unlearned, which have been long cherished will be traumatic. At that point we will either do as the Jews did in a different form, or we will, with humble hearts, lay aside error.
The Jews crucified Jesus who was the truth, we can today crucify the truth as it is in Jesus.
With what attitude should we approach a challenge to our personal perceptions? The answer is given:
Those who sincerely desire truth will not be reluctant to lay open their positions for investigation and criticism, and will not be annoyed if their opinions and ideas are crossed. (ibid.)
first messenger of the Lord recalled that "this was the spirit cherished
among us forty years ago" which would take one back to the 1850s prior to
the formation of the organized
We would come together burdened in soul, praying that we might be one in faith and doctrine; for we knew that Christ is not divided. One point at a time was made the subject of investigation. Solemnity characterized these councils of investigation. The Scriptures were opened with a solemn sense of awe. Often we fasted, that we might be better fitted to understand the truth. After earnest prayer, if any point was not understood, it was discussed, and each one expressed his opinion freely; then we would again bow in prayer, and earnest supplications went up to heaven that God would help us see eye to eye, that we might be one, as Christ and the Father are one. (ibid.)
If we would seek to emulate the experience that marked the beginning of the Advent Movement, it would become obvious that there were difficulties to solve. First, Bible Conferences such as have marked the years since then, such as the 1919 or 1952 conferences, cannot duplicate the setting necessary to achieve the true objective of "the unity for which Christ prayed." Study groups would have to be limited in size, small enough so that each one present could "freely" express himself. The time allotted would have to be of a duration so that solid conclusions based in the study of the Word could be achieved. The pace of life to which we are accustomed would have to be drastically altered. Progress would be slow due to the many and varied winds of doctrine that have been blowing unchecked in the corridors of Adventism during the past few decades.
Then there is a primary question that must be addressed. Who is willing among the many voices sounding in the corridors of Adventism "to lay open their positions for investigation and criticism and who "will not be annoyed if their opinions and ideas are crossed"? Besides this, there is a more acute question: Who would be willing to admit that he was in error even if shown to be by the study of the Word?
We are prone to think that since the pioneer brethren came together and through fasting, prayer and study of the Bible, formulated a comprehensive doctrinal structure in the 1850s, it is infallibly sound. Yet it was some forty years later that the first messenger stated unequivocally that there were still things to learn, and many, many things to unlearn. This fact, we are reluctant to acknowledge and act upon in accordance with the directive - "learn" and doubly "unlearn." It has been made even more difficult to follow and accept, when it is obvious in the history of the church from 1950 and climaxing in 1980, most attempts to do so have resulted in apostasy from the truth rather than growth in the truth. This has been carefully documented in the first eight issues of WWN for this year as we critiqued Dr. George R. Knight's book, A Search for Identity.
Those promoting the current agitation over the 1888 Message, while placing in the forefront the message given by the second two messengers, have ignored, or we might say, have rejected, the directives by the first messenger in regard to the advancing light of truth. They deplore the rejection by the "brethren" of the 1888 message, yet at the same time reject the advancing light of truth commensurate to the hour to which we have come in human history. Their rejection since their challenge in 1950, and documented in A Warning and Its Reception, seems to have made no impression upon them.
questions that demand attention. There can be no question that we have reached
the end of time. Jesus Himself gave a prophecy which would mark that end. We
have not heeded it nor the message of the first
messenger regarding final events. (See R&H,
It is our objective, by the grace of God, to address
some of these questions forthrightly in the issues of WWN for 2002. If in 1892, there were lessons to learn, and many, many to unlearn, the intervening years have not nullified this counsel, but because it has not been done, it has made it even more necessary that such an attempt be made.