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Foundations of the Seventh-day Adventist Message and Mission - Contents
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    D. The Ecclesiological Self-understanding

    During 1850-74, a number of ecclesiological motifs developed which became a part of the SDA theology of mission. These motifs were of paramount importance for the improvement of the spiritual climate for mission work and for the understanding of the self-image of the religious body, which called attention to its unique role in the history of the Christian church. As a result there was an increased dedication and self-consciousness of its missionary task toward other churches and the world. The two major categories of ecclesiological motifs that could be distinguished were eschatological motifs and topological motifs.FSDA 243.1

    1. The eschatological motifs

    There were two categories of eschatological motifs: (1) The Remnant motif, which indicated the uniqueness of Sabbatarian Adventists as the remnant of God’s people who continued to adhere to the major positions of the Advent movement; (2) the Laodicean motif, which succeeded the Philadelphian motif, and reflected the spirituality of the believers, contributed to an anti-triumphalistic dimension in ecclesiology, and created a spirit of self-investigation resulting in greater dedication toward missionary endeavor.FSDA 243.2

    a. The Remnant motif.FSDA 243.3

    The Sabbatarian Adventists designated themselves as “the remnant,” 1See supra, p. 147. “the remnant people of God,” 2E.g., E. G. White, Spiritual Gifts 2:169. Cf. E. G. White, TC, No. 10, 1864, p. 47 (Testimonies for the Church 1:439). and “the remnant church.” 4Cf. J. White, “TAM,” p. 66 (TAM, p. 7); J. White, “Signs,” p. 75 (Signs, pp. 114, 115); E. G. White, CEV, p. 54 (Early Writings, 66). It seems probable that they took the term “remnant” initially from Revelation 12:17, though in many cases this text was not mentioned in the context. Explaining the significance of “the remnant,” J. White stated that they “must be the last end of the church; those who live in the last generation before Christ comes. Sabbath-keepers will understand it, when they are reviled, and called Jews, fools, fanatics, etc. The dragon is to make war on the remnant [Revelation 12:17].” On the basis of this text he pointed out that the remnant were especially noted for the fact that “they teach the observance of the ten commandments, and the revival of the gifts, and acknowledge the gift of prophecy among them.” In a few instances the remnant concept was used with a different significance. When in 1850 E. G. White wrote that the “hand of the Lord is set to recover the remnant of his people [Isaiah 11:11],” 1E. G. White, CEV, pp. 57, 61 (Early Writings, 70, 74). she apparently referred to saving the remnant of God’s people outside the Sabbatarian Adventists. In regard to the success of this mission in terms of quantity she was not too optimistic, later (1870) pointing out that “a few, yes, only a few, of the vast number who people the earth, will be saved unto life eternal” while “the masses” would perish because of disobedience. 2E. G. White, TC, No. 18, p. 71 (Testimonies for the Church 2:401, 402). Cf. Ibid., No. 17, p. 169 (Testimonies for the Church 2:334); Smith, “Visions-Objections Answered,” RH, June 19, 1866, p.18 (Visions, p. 30). E. G. White later indicated that in the figure these “few” may signify as many “in a day as there were on the day of Pentecost, after the disciples had received the Holy Spirit” (“The Need of Home Religion,” RH, June 29, 1905, p. 8 [Ev, p. 692]). This reference was made in regard to mission among modern Jews. Cf. D. T. Bourdeau, “The Council at Bale, Suisse,” RH, Nov. 10, 1885, p. 100 (E. G. White, Ev, p. 693).FSDA 243.4

    The Remnant motif does not appear to have directly contributed to the growth of SDA missionary consciousness, but it surely did indirectly by providing a positive argument for their uniqueness in the history of salvation as God’s faithful remnant participating indispensably in His final rescue mission.FSDA 244.1

    b. The Laodicean motif.FSDA 244.2

    After the 1844 experience, Sabbatarian Adventists identified themselves with the much desired character of the Philadelphian church, 3See supra, p. 148. See e.g., J. White, “TAM,” p. 68 (TAM, p. 14); [J. White], “The Seventh Month Movement,” AdR, Sept. 1850, p. 64; Bates, TAS, pp. 13, 14. other Adventists with the Laodicean church, 4See supra, p. 148. see e.g., E. G. White, Manuscript 11, 1850; Bates, TAS, pp. 13, 14; Arnold, “Miller’s Dream,” p. l 1. and non-Adventists with the Sardis church. 6E. G. White, Supplement to the Christian Experience and Views of Ellen G. White, 39, 40 (Early Writings, 119). As time passed, however, it became increasingly apparent that the spiritual condition of Sabbatarian Adventists did not adequately resemble Philadelphian characteristics. In 1851 E. G. White brought out that “the remnant were not prepared for what is coming upon the earth. Stupidity, like lethargy, seemed to hang upon the minds of most of those who profess to believe that we are having the last message.” She also portrayed critically the lack of sacrifice for mission activities among those believers “who were not willing to dispose of this world’s good to save perishing souls by sending them the truth, while Jesus stands before the Father, pleading his blood, his sufferings, and his death for them.” A self-critical attitude developed. In 1854 J. White ventured to say that “the reason why the work does not progress more rapidly is because so many who profess the truth are not real Bible Christians.” In another article he pointed to the failure to achieve “gospel order” as the reason for the lack of missionary progress, stating that God will not suffer this holy cause to move faster than it moves right.... And he is waiting for his people to get right, and in gospel order, and hold the standard of piety high, before he adds many more to our numbers.... God will not intrust many souls to our watch-care, brethren, until we get into a position to lead them on in the path to eternal life. 1[J. White], “Gospel Order,” RH, March 18, 1854, p. 76. Cf. E. G. White, Testimonies for the Church 6:371, 1900.FSDA 244.3

    Smith agreed with the assertion that the believers themselves were responsible for the failure in mission work and said that only “when the people of God are prepared so that he [God] can, consistently, and without danger to themselves, manifest his power through them, there will be delay no longer.” 2Smith, “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord,” RH, May 30, 1854, p. 148. The necessary preparation he saw in personal sanctification and holy living so that individuals could become instruments of the Holy Spirit. 3Ibid. In 1855 the attitude of Sabbatarian Adventists toward mission was of such a nature that it was compared with the experience of the people of Meroz who were cursed because of their sin of doing nothing (Judg. 5:23). 4“The Sin of Doing Nothing,” RH, Aug. 21, 1855, p. 32, quoted from “an old religious magazine.”FSDA 245.1

    In the face of declining spirituality and lethargic missionary endeavor, it seemed incongruous to continue styling the Sabbatarian Adventists the Philadelphian church. When in 1856 J. White brought out (possibly through the influence of his wife) 5It is not quite clear whether he was influenced through one of his wife’s visions or that she confirmed his views. Cf. E. G. White, TC, No. 3, 1857, p. 1 (Testimonies for the Church 1:141); TC, No. 5, p. 4 (Testimonies for the Church 1:186). Already in 1853 there was a suggestion that Revelation 3:18 had relevance for believers (N. W. Rockwell to J. White, RH, Sept. 8, 1853, p. 71). In 1855 E. G. White pointed to the significance of Revelation 3:15, 16 (TC, [No. 1], 1855, p. 16 [Testimonies for the Church 1:126]). that the present condition of the believers was that of the Laodicean church of Revelation 3, it came as a surprise to many, but was readily conceded, only confirming as it did the current spiritual lethargy. However, this shift in ecclesiological self-understanding from a triumphalistic to an anti-triumphalistic attitude was immediately accepted and provided a powerful incentive to awaken believers to participate in missionary activity. J. White explained the hermeneutic for such interpretation by stating that it has been supposed that the Philadelphia church reached to the end. This we must regard as a mistake, as the seven churches in Asia represent seven distinct periods of the true church, and the Philadelphia is the sixth, and not the last state. The true church cannot be in two conditions at the same time, hence we are shut up to the faith that the Laodicean church represents the church of God at the present time. 6J. White, “The Seven Churches,” RH, Oct. 16, 1850, p. 189. Cf. J. White, “Watchman, What of the Night?” RH, Oct. 9, 1856, p. 184. Regarding the “conditional promises to the Philadelphia church,” he said that they were “yet to be fulfilled to that portion of that church who comply with the conditions, pass down through the Laodicean state, and overcome” (“Seven Churches,” p. 189).FSDA 245.2

    J. White further remarked that if the “nominal churches” and the organized “nominal Adventists” were characterized as cold, the only ones who would qualify to represent the lukewarm Laodicean church must be those who professed the third angel’s message. 1J. White, “Watchman,” p. 184. The name “Laodicea” was seen as timely and signified to him “‘the judging of the people,’ or according to Cruden, ‘a just people,’ and fitly represents the present state of the church, in the great day of atonement, or judgment of the ‘house of God’ while the just and holy law of God is taken as a rule of life.” 2J. White, “Seven Churches,” p. 189. Cf. letter, E. Everts to the Brethren, RH, Jan. 1, 1857, p. 72; Snow, “Laodicean Church,” p. 117.FSDA 246.1

    From this time onward the tenor of the ecclesiological self-understanding was more anti-triumphalistic. Referring to the Laodicean spirit among the Sabbatarian Adventists J. White stated that our positions are fully sustained by an overwhelming amount of direct scriptural testimony.... but we, as a people, have evidently rested down upon a theory of truth, and have neglected to seek Bible humility, Bible patience, Bible self-denial, and Bible watchfulness, and sacrifice, Bible holiness, and the power and gifts of the Holy Ghost.... Hence it is said, “And knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked [Revelation 3:17].” What a condition! 3J. White, “Seven Churches,” p. 189.FSDA 246.2

    He also pointed out that the church had to be “stripped from self-righteous views and feelings” and had to experience a thorough repentance. 4J. White, “The Laodicean Church,” RH, Nov. 13, 1856, p. 13. The current attitude he denounced as “hypocrytical,” for in living with the expectancy of the imminent Second Advent and God’s judgments on those who disobeyed the third angel’s message, “professed believers rush on in their worldly pursuits, taxing their entire energies in pursuit of this world as if there was no coming Jesus, no wrath of God to fall upon the shelterless and no flaming Judgment-bar, where all deeds will receive a recompense.” 5Ibid. According to Stephen H. Haskell, there had probably never been a time that a theory of the third angel’s message was better understood; yet, it was a well-known fact that there was a “very great, lukewarmness throughout the entire church. Pride, popularity, a worldly-mindedness, etc., etc., are in the ranks of the remnant” (“A Few Thoughts on the Philadelphia and Laodicean Churches,” RH, Nov. 6, 1856, p. 6). Cf. E. G. White, TC, No. 3, p. 1 (Testimonies for the Church 1:141). Here she said: “Worldly-mindedness, selfishness and covetousness, have been eating out the spirituality and life of God’s people.”FSDA 246.3

    At this time a parallel was discovered between the third angel’s message and the Laodicean message: The third angel’s message was seen as the final message of mercy to “a rebellious world,” and the Laodicean, as the final message to “a lukewarm church.” 6[Smith], “The Last Way-Marks,” RH, Dec. 11, 1856, p. 44. Waggoner stated that “the last warning to the world is the Third Angel’s Message, and the last admonition to the church is the letter to the Laodiceans.” 7Letter, Waggoner to Smith, RH, Dec. 25, 1856, p. 61. See supra, p. 168.FSDA 246.4

    Three years after its first presentation E. G. White observed that the Laodicean message had initially stirred the Sabbatarian Adventists everywhere and “nearly all believed that this message would end in the loud cry of the third angel”-a lofty hope which was not realized because, as the believers “failed to see the powerful work accomplished in a short time, many lost the effect of the message.” 1E. G. White, TC, No. 5, p. 4 (Testimonies for the Church 1:186). She pointed out that the message was “designed to arouse the people of God, to discover to them their backslidings, and lead to zealous repentance, that they might be favored with the presence of Jesus, and be fitted for the loud cry of the third angel,” a process requiring individual character development over a certain period of time. 2Ibid., pp. 4, 5 (Testimonies for the Church 1:186, 187). Nevertheless, even with the drawback from full acceptance of the Laodicean message some progress had been achieved in missionary activity. Were it not for “the hardness of their hearts,” E. G. White said, the results could have been greater. Yet, she added, “the efforts made since the message has been given have been blessed of God, and many souls have been brought from error and darkness to rejoice in the truth.” 3Ibid. (Testimonies for the Church 1:186). In 1857 J. White thought there were “several thousand” believers. The weekly RH had a circulation of “near two thousand” (“Cause,” RH, July 23, 1857, p. 93).FSDA 247.1

    The Laodicean message, functioning as a criterion for self-evaluation, became an integral part of the SDA theology of mission and helped create a better climate for mission work after it was used quite indirectly as a basis for self-criticism. In 1867 E. G. White revealed “the startling fact that but a small portion of those who now profess the truth will be sanctified by it, and be saved.” 4E. G. White, TC, No. 13, p. 54 (Testimonies for the Church 1:608). Cf. H. F. Davis, “Few That Be Saved,” RH, Nov. 10, 1868, p. 235. In this context E. G. White referred to ancient Israel’s wilderness experience during which nearly all of the adults perished (TC, No. 13, p. 54 [Testimonies for the Church 1:609]). See infra, p. 250. This implied that only a remnant of the remnant church would gain the victory. One year later she remarked that “not one in twenty of those who have a good standing with Seventh-day Adventists ... is living out the self-sacrificing principles of the word of God.” 5Ibid., No. 14, p. 4 (Testimonies for the Church 1:632). In 1874 she stated that “we were not doing one-twentieth part of the work that we should for the salvation of souls” (“Sacrifice,” p. 1). Cf. Butler, “Nations,” pp. 20, 21; Mary Martin, “Not Doing One-Twentieth of What We Might,” The True Missionary, March, 1874, p. 24; E. G. White, “Tithes and Offerings,” RH, Dec. 15, 1874, p. 195 (Testimonies for the Church 3:407). She called on all SDA to engage in the work for “the salvation of souls who are perishing.” 7Ibid. (Testimonies for the Church 1:166). See also ibid., No. 17, p. 65 (Testimonies for the Church 2:247); infra, p. 263. According to her, it was the responsibility of “each member of the church” to come “to the help of the Lord [Judg. 5:23]”; and unless he would obey he would be subject to the curse on Meroz. In 1871 she sharply criticized the lack of missionary progress by stating that “the efforts made in getting the truth before the people are not half as thorough and extensive as they should be. Not a fiftieth part is now being done that might be, in extending the truth by scattering publications on present truth, and in bringing friends, and all that can be induced, within the sound of the truth.” 1Ibid., No. 20, 1871, p. 117 (Testimonies for the Church 2:655). The continual self-criticism, which seems to grow in severity as the years passed, obviously indicated that the Laodicean spirit of lukewarmness continued to characterize the majority of SDA. In 1873 J. White concluded that “God has had those to lead out in this work who could forsee the wants of the cause, and suggest new and more extensive enterprises and missions. But the body of our people have ever been too slow to move out, which has increased their labors.” 2J. White, “Permanency of the Cause,” RH, July 8, 1873, p. 28. In the same year E. G. White declared that among the SDA “faith in the soon coming of Christ is waning. ‘My Lord delayeth his coming [Mt. 24:48; Luke 12:45]’ is said not only in the heart, but expressed in words, and most decidedly in works. Stupidity in this watching time is sealing the senses of God’s people as to the signs of the times.” 3E. G. White, “The Laodicean Church,” RH, Sept. 16, 1873, p. 109. Cf. E. G. White, “Sacrifice,” p. 1.FSDA 247.2

    This anti-triumphalism in the Laodicean context has continued to be an important factor in the SDA theology of mission up till the present. It has not only improved the spiritual climate for mission work but has also provided a rationale for the delay of the parousia.FSDA 248.1

    2. Typological motifs

    Several ecclesiological motifs in the category of “types” were employed to elucidate the past, present, and future experience of Sabbatarian Adventists. For example, the “Israel” motif, referring to the period between the Exodus experience and the entry into the promised land, was seen to typify the period between the Advent experience and Christ’s return. The “Elijah” motif focused on the restoration of true worship in the context of a general apostasy, while specific motifs in the lives of John the Baptist, Noah, and Enoch were also seen as typifying the mission of Sabbatarian Adventists. All these motifs contributed to the missionary ecclesiology and helped substantiate the already unique self-image of this religious body.FSDA 248.2

    a. The Israel motif.FSDA 248.3

    Immediately after the Disappointment various Adventists saw in Israel’s exodus from the bondage of Egypt a type of the final deliverance of the faithful Adventists. 4Cf. Editorinal, “The Midnight Cry,” WMC, Dec. 11, 1844, p. 22; “J. B. Cook,” WMC, Jan. 9 and 23, 1845, pp. 36, 41; Letter, Mary Fall to Jacobs, The Day-Star, April 1, 1845, p. 27; Letter, Minor to Jacobs, The Day-Star, May 20, 1845, p. 6. In 1847 E. G. White designated those who observed the Sabbath as “the true Israel of God.” 5Letter, E. G. White to Bates, A Word to the Little Flock, 19. See supra, p. 148. Three years later J. White indicated that after the deliverance from Egypt, God led Israel into the desert to test them for forty years (Deuteronomy 8:2); “in like manner,” White continued, “he called us from the bondage of the churches in 1844, and there humbled us, and has been proving us, and has been developing the hearts of his people, and seeing whether they would keep his commandments.” 1J. White, “TAM,” p. 68 (TAM, p. 12). A. C. Bourdeau stated that as it was impossible for Israel to receive the necessary preparation for the entry into the promised land of Canaan by remaining in Egypt, so “God’s honest people cannot get a preparation to enter the antitypical land of Canaan while they are bound by popular orthodoxy, or connected with fallen professors of Christianity” (“Our Present Position ...,” RH, May 28, 1867, p. 278). Others interpreted the Advent experience as an Exodus from the bondage of “spiritual Egypt” 2Edson, “Appeal,” p. 4. or “antitypical Egypt.” 4Edson, “Appeal,” p. 4. In 1850 Edson explained that “by the proclamation of the hour of his judgment, the fall of Babylon and the midnight cry, he [God] brought them out of spiritual Egypt, into the wilderness of the people, and when we passed the midnight cry, our pillar of light was behind us [Exodus 13:21; 14:19].” He added that just as the typical pillar of fire was darkness to the Egyptians but light to the Israelites, so the antitypical pillar of fire manifest in the events of 1844 was a “brilliant light” to Sabbatarian Adventists but darkness to their enemies. Several years later, A. C. Bourdeau interpreted the pillar of fire in the context of the progress of the SDA Church as God guiding “his people by his Spirit; and causes light to shine on their path just as they can bear it, and leads them in the truth, step by step, as fast as they are prepared to practice it.”FSDA 248.4

    Mount Sinai suggested yet another topological relationship. Right after the Exodus Israel was confronted with the Sabbath commandment (Exodus 16:14, 28). Even so, Edson stated, “the first important truth brought to our minds after we came into the wilderness of the people, this side of ‘44, was the Sabbath truth.” 8Edson, “Appeal,” p. 4. Cf. A. C. Bourdeau, “Present Position,” p. 278.FSDA 249.1

    In 1867 A. C. Bourdeau alluded to a hygienic parallel. The Israelites in the wilderness were given “manna” to eat and the promise that, if they obeyed Him, God would keep them from the diseases that the Egyptians suffered (Exodus 15:26). SDA in their turn received the “health reform” message. 9Ibid. Bourdeau remarked that in both Exodus and Advent experiences God had not revealed the disappointing future. According to him, Israel would never have left Egypt in a rush if they had known about their forty years of wilderness wanderings. Similarly, he said that if the Adventists had known about the delay of Christ’s return, “they would not have proclaimed the doctrines of the second advent with the spirit and power that they did.” 10Ibid. Furthermore, he paralleled those who perished in the Exodus with “the mass of professors of Christianity” who rejected the Advent message in 1844, and likened those who died in the wilderness to the Adventists who refused the SDA explanation of the Disappointment. 1Ibid. The impatience of Israel which led to the creation of a golden calf while enduring the delay in Moses’ descent from the mount (Exodus 32) was to Edson a type of the impatience of the majority of Adventists after the Disappointment: “They expected Jesus [the antitypical Moses] would then descend from heaven, but being disappointed, and impatient, many of them organized at the Albany conference, in 1845, and made to themselves leaders to go before them” (“Appeal,” pp. 4, 5). (Brackets his.)FSDA 249.2

    In the same year E. G. White illustrated the “startling fact” that only a few of the then living SDA would be saved, and warned that “but two of the adults of that vast army that left Egypt entered the land of Canaan. Their dead bodies were strewn in the wilderness because of their transgressions. Modern Israel are in greater danger of forgetting God and being led into idolatry than was God’s ancient people.” 2E. G. White, TC, No. 13, p. 54 (Testimonies for the Church 1:609). In 1872 she again used typology to alert SDA to their danger. The Israelites, she said, “had great light and exalted privileges, yet they did not live up to the light or appreciate their privileges and their light became darkness, and they walked in the light of their own eyes instead of the counsel of God. The people of God in these last days are following the example of ancient Israel.” 3Letter, E. G. White to Lay, No. la, 1872. Identification of SDA as antitypical Israel could have led to a triumphalistic attitude, but increasing emphasis on ancient Israel’s failures seemed to be a deterrent at the time. The self-critical dimension in this typology was used to improve the commitment of believers to greater missionary endeavor.FSDA 250.1

    b. The Elijah motif.FSDA 250.2

    Elijah’s mission of restoration in a day of general apostasy was also seen to parallel the mission of Sabbatarian Adventists. As early as 1846 a reference was made to the restorative work of Elijah in the context of the Sabbath, 4See supra, p. 139. Immediately after the Disappointment reference was made to Elijah as being a type of the Advent movement (Letter, Clayton to Miller, Oct. 26, 1844; Editorial, “Elijah,” WMC, Dec. 21, 1844, p. 27; “The Watching Time,” MW, Jan. 30, 1845, p. 37). Cf. Letter, Minor to Pearson, HI, repr. in The Day-Star, April 15, 1845, p. 35. In 1843 a Second Advent periodical, The Voice of Elijah!, was published in Sherbrooke, Canada East. a theme Edson treated more fully in 1850 in a polemic against other Adventists. Referring to Malachi 4:5, “Behold I send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” and Jesus’ statement in Mt. 17:11,” Elias truly shall first come and restore all things,” Edson asserted that “the work of Elijah, in the last days, is to restore, to ‘raise up the foundations of many generations’ [Isaiah 58:12], repair the breach in the law of God, and to restore the true worship of the true God.” 5Edson, “Appeal,” p. 5. Cottrell remarked that Malachi 4:5 had “a primary, or incipient fulfillment in the mission of John the Baptist” but added that contextual evidence showed that the text “must have a more striking and complete fulfillment just before” Christ’s return (“Elijah the Prophet,” RH, July 9, 1867, p. 49). He continued: “Those who are engaged in this restoration, are the Elijah that was to immediately precede the second advent, the same as was John the Baptist who went before Jesus, in the spirit and power of Elijah, at the first advent.” 1Edson, “Appeal,” p. 5. Cf. Cottrell, “I Can Do More Good,” RH, May 29, 1856, p. 44. The three-and-a-half-year period of drought (Luke 4:25) he interpreted as a type of the period after the Disappointment until 1848 when there was a spiritual famine among Adventists in general. 2Edson, “Appeal,” p. 6. He remarked that “while Elijah was hid by Jordan, the people supposed he was dead. So also after ‘44, the funeral sermon of Millerism was preached, and many supposed that Millerism was dead” (ibid.). Commenting on the fact that after this drought Elijah emerged from his seclusion (1 Kings 18:1), he said that “the word of the Lord contained in the sealing message of the third angel came to the true people of God, more clearly in 1848, after they had been hid in the wilderness of the people three and a half years.” 4Ibid. Cf. Cottrell, “Extract from ‘Elijah the Tishbite,’” RH, Oct. 1, 1861, p. 141. In Ahab’s reaction to Elijah’s appearance, “Art thou he that troubleth Israel?” (1 Kings 18:17), Edson saw a parallel with the reaction of other Adventists to the Sabbatarian Adventists’ missionary activity among them and stated that “when we urge the keeping of all the commandments of God, we are charged with troubling Israel, and sowing discord, and of causing divisions, etc.” The climax of the battle for the restoration of true worship, when Elijah confronted the people with the crucial question “How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him, but if Baal, then follow him” (1 Kings 18:21), Edson interpreted as the current (1850) confrontation between Sabbatarian and non-Sabbatarian Adventists over the crucial question of Sabbath versus Sunday as the true day of worship. The rain which came down in answer to Elijah’s prayer (1 Kings 18:42-45) he regarded as “an example of the latter rain, the time of refreshing from the presence of the Lord, which will come upon the remnant, just at their entering the great day of the Lord, to prepare them to endure the time of trouble.” The final phase of the restoration theme occurred at Jezreel when confronted with Jezebel’s death decree. Elijah had to flee for his life to Horeb, the mount of God (1 Kings 18:46; 19:1-8). Jezreel, Edson said, was a type of the Day of the Lord, and Jezebel’s decree, a type of the death decree in Revelation 13:15. From these he concluded the antitype of the final conflict will be realized “in the great day of JEZREEL, or day of the Lord [Hosea 1:11]. As Elijah had to flee for his life, so also, all that will not worship the image [Revelation 13:15], ... They will find their only refuge on Mount Zion. 1Edson, “Appeal,” p. 8. Cf. Cottrell, “Elijah the Prophet,” p. 51.FSDA 250.3

    In 1856 Cottrell used a somewhat similar argument to bring out the theme of restoration in the mission of Sabbatarian Adventists. His remarks were, however, placed in a broader and more general setting than Edson’s. Stating with Edson that “the office of Elijah is to counteract the effects of apostasy, and restore the commandments of God,” he added that the “antitypical Baal is the beast of Revelation, Paul’s man of sin, and Daniel’s little horn.” 2Cottrell, “I Can Do More Good,” p. 44. To Cottrell, the choice which Elijah offered the people was the same choice presented by the third angel’s message under which people “are called upon to decide whether they will keep the Commandments of God, or those of the beast.” 3Ibid. Several years later, Cottrell summarized his position. Drawing an analogy between the general apostasy of Elijah’s day and the contemporary religious situation, he pointed out that “Elijah had a message for the people of his time, very similar to the third angel’s message, which is addressed to the last generation of earth.” 5Ibid. He added that “Elias must first come and restore all things” (Mt. 17:11). Alluding to the theme of restoration, he said that “those that heeded Elijah turned back from Baal to the commandments of God. So will those that heed the third message. Elijah restored the commandments to the true Israel; so will this message.” Furthermore, “Elijah was accused of troubling Israel; so are those accused that preach this last message.” And finally, influenced by the book Elijah the Tishbite, he referred to an “analogy between Elijah in the time of drought and famine which had come according to his word, and the saints remaining on earth in the time of trouble, and while the seven last plagues are being poured out.”FSDA 252.1

    In 1864 Canright suggested that the prediction in Malachi 4:5 regarding the coming of Elijah as “prophet” found its antitypical fulfillment in the remnant church which had the “gift of prophecy among them.” 9Canright, “Elijah the Prophet,” RH, Dec. 6, 1864, p. 9. Referring to Elijah’s ascension to heaven, he stated that “after warning a fallen church and a godless world of the wrath to come, the ‘remnant’ will be translated without tasting death. 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17. So was Elijah.” 10Ibid. Elijah’s escape and subsequent translation were interpreted by Cottrell as “a feature which will be filled up in the history of that people who shall preach the last message of reform, that of the ‘third angel,’ before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord, and who will be alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord. These will be translated as Elijah of old, and then the characteristics and history of Elijah will have met their antitype” (“Elijah the Prophet,” p. 50). Cf. Editorial, “Elijah,” p. 27; “Watching Time,” p. 37. In 1867 there appeared an extensive treatment of the subject by Cottrell, who combined the already existing arguments. 1Cottrell, “Elijah the Prophet,” pp. 49-51.FSDA 252.2

    E. G. White’s first known use of the Elijah typology occurred in the context of the Advent proclamation by Miller. In 1858 she commented that “thousands were led to embrace the truth preached by Wm. Miller, and servants of God were raised up in the spirit and power of Elijah [Luke 1:17] to proclaim the message.” 2E. G. White, Spiritual Gifts 1:134. The current interpretation of Malachi 4:5, 6 in relation to SDA she endorsed in 1872 when, discussing the importance of health reform, she remarked that “those who are to prepare the way for the second coming of Christ are represented by faithful Elijah, es John came in the spirit of Elijah to prepare the way for his first advent. The great subject of reform is to be agitated, and the public mind is to be stirred.” 3E. G. White, TC, No. 21, pp. 89, 90 (Testimonies for the Church 3:62).FSDA 253.1

    More than any other ecclesiological motif, the Elijah theme brought out the mission of restoration-the specific burden of the third angel’s message. As a result the Elijah motif became an integral part of the SDA theology of mission.FSDA 253.2

    c. Other topological motifs.FSDA 253.3

    Closely related to the Elijah motif is the “John the Baptist” theme. Christ had associated the work of the two men, and the fact that Sabbatarian Adventists considered themselves as preparing the world for the Second Advent inevitably led to an identification not only with Elijah, as we have seen, but also with John the Baptist, who was engaged in preparing the Jewish nation for the First Advent. In 1850 in the context of the Elijah motif Edson referred to a similarity between John’s mission and that of Sabbatarian Adventists. 4Edson, “Appeal,” p. 5. Cf. E. G. White, TC, No. 21, pp. 89, 90 (Testimonies for the Church 3:62). Later, in 1858, E. G. White drew a parallel between the mission of the Millerites and that of John, stating that “as John the Baptist heralded the first advent of Jesus, and prepared the way for his coming, so also, Wm. Miller and those who joined with him, proclaimed the second advent of the Son of God.” 5E. G. White, Spiritual Gifts 1:129, 130. Several years later, she called attention to similarities between the mission of John the Baptist as a “reformer” preparing the way of the Lord and the mission of the SDA with the health-reform message preparing for Christ’s return. 7Ibid., p. 89 (Testimonies for the Church 3:62). John, she said, “was a representative of those living in these last days to whom God has entrusted sacred truths to present before the people, to prepare the way for the second appearing of Christ.”FSDA 253.4

    The SDA mission included more than preparation and reformation. It also announced the imminence of judgment, a theme which was brought out by means of the “Noah” motif. In 1872 E. G. White wrote that “as the preaching of Noah warned, tested, and proved the inhabitants of the world before the flood of waters destroyed them from off the face of the earth, so is the truth of God for these last days doing a similar work of warning, testing, and proving the world.” 1Ibid., No. 22, p. 124 (Testimonies for the Church 3:207).FSDA 253.5

    Finally, there was the “Enoch” motif, based primarily on Genesis 5:24, “And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.” Commenting on this, a correspondent of the Review and Herald wrote that “the remnant in these last days must walk closely with God, if they ever expect to be translated as Enoch was.” 2Letter, Hannah Clough to Dear Brother, RH, May 29, 1856, p. 47. Cf. [Smith], “Enoch’s Testimony,” RH, Jan. 8, 1857, p. 76. E. G. White, Spiritual Gifts 3:57, 59. For the antitypical significance of Enoch’s holiness of life, his warning of the world, and his translation, see ibid., pp. 54-59.FSDA 254.1

    These motifs represent the early development of SDA missionary ecclesiology. They have been further developed and frequently employed in the framework of SDA mission until the present time.FSDA 254.2

    3. The SDA Church as a missionary organization

    It has not been the purpose to write a detailed account of the organization of Sabbatarian Adventists into the SDA Church. This section will deal with only two aspects of the SDA self-image which are of direct relevance to the understanding of its missionary nature: Their name and the authority of the religious body.FSDA 254.3

    a. The name “Seventh-day Adventists.”FSDA 254.4

    The first to use the name “Seventh-day Adventists” appear to have been their opponents. One of the earliest references to the name Seventh-day Adventists occurred in the Advent Herald, the main publication of the non-Sabbatarian Adventists, in 1847. 3Editorial, “Advent Question,” p. 133. See supra, p. 114, n. 78. In 1853 the Seventh Day Baptist Central Association designated the Sabbatarian Adventists as the “Seventh-day Advent people.” 4Letter, J. C. Rogers to J. White, in J. White, “Resolution of the Seventh-day Baptist Central Association,” RH, Aug. 11, 1853, p. 52. Although during the 1850s the need for organization grew, there were theological obstacles regarding the adoption of a name and the formation of a legal organization which were only slowly overcome. 5See supra, pp. 190, 206, 207.FSDA 254.5

    There were some Sabbatarian Adventists who preferred to be called simply “Christians” or “disciples” because these names had apostolic connotations, 6Cottrell, “Making Us a Name,” RH, May 29, 1860, p. 9. while others advocated the name “the Remnant” due to its biblical basis. 7Cf. J. White, “‘I Want the Review Discontinued,’” RH, Sept. 25, 1860, p. 148. In 1860 J. White suggested “that we unanimously adopt the name Church of God, as a scriptural and appropriate name by which to be known.” 1J. White, “Organization,” RH, June 19, 1860, p. 36. As textual evidence he referred to Acts 20:28 (“Review Discontinued,” p. 148). Cf. Letter, S. B. Craig, Jona. Lamson, J. B. Lamson to J. White, RH, Jan. 10, 1854, p. 207; Frisbie, “Church Order,” p. 147; Frisbie, Order of the Church of God, 1859, p. 1. At this time some believers in Michigan had named themselves the Church of God. 2Editorial, “A New Sect,” RH, July 17, 1860, p. 72. See supra, p. 115, n. 81. There was, however, no uniformity in the names chosen by the various independent communities of believers. 4Ibid. At the 1860 Battle Creek Conference of Sabbatarian Adventists the decision was made to adopt an official name. When the name “Church of God” was proposed, the objection was made that “that name was already in use by some denominations, and on this account, was indefinite, besides having to the world an appearance of presumption.” J. White made the suggestion that the name chosen “should be one which would be the least objection: able to the world at large.” Then the name “Seventh-day Adventists” was proposed as “a simple name and one expressive of our faith and position.” After discussion it was adopted by those present at the conference and recommended to the believers at large. In general it was well received, though a few communities opposed it. E. G. White viewed it favorably as “a standing rebuke to the Protestant world,” and commenting on its missionary significance she said that “the name Seventh-day Adventists carries the true features of our faith in front and will convict the inquiring mind. Like an arrow from the Lord’s quiver it will wound the transgressor of God’s law, and will lead to repentance toward God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”FSDA 254.6

    b. The organization and its authority.FSDA 255.1

    As had been realized in previous years, church order and unity were a necessity for effective operation and success in mission endeavors. The larger the religious body became, the more urgent the need was felt for unity and organization to prevent general confusion, and especially so during the Civil War. 10See e.g., E. G. White, “Communication from Sister White,” RH, Aug. 27, 1861, pp. 101, 102; E. G. White, “The Cause in Northern Wisconsin,” RH, May 6, 1862, p. 178; J. Clarke, “Stone of Stumbling,” RH, Nov. 18, 1862, pp. 197, 198; E. G. White, TC, No. 7, 1862, p. 25 (Testimonies for the Church 1:270). For some forces of disunity, see ibid., No. 8, pp. 29, 30, 43 (Testimonies for the Church 1:326, 327, 337); R. G. Davis, “Conscientious Cooperators,” p. 67. Cf. Editorial, “To Correspondents,” RH, Sept. 9, 1862, p. 118. Finally in 1863, having overcome the theological obstacles to organization, the SDA organized legally with the specific purpose of “securing unity and efficiency in labor and promoting the general interest of the cause of present truth.” 1General Conference Report, RH, May 26, 1863, pp. 204, 205. That same year for the first time the idea was brought forward among SDA that the church was “a missionary society” established by Christ and still under obligation to the Great Commision, 2Snook, “The Great Missionary Society,” RH, July 7, 1863, p. 46. Cf. Cottrell, “Proselytism,” RH, July 3, 1866, p. 36; Cottrell, “The Gospel Is Free,” RH, Jan. 20, 1874, p. 45. a motive widely advocated by other Christians at that time. 3Cf. R. Pierce Beaver, “Missionary Motivation through Three Centuries,” in Brauer Reinterpretation in American Church History, 1968, pp. 141, 142.FSDA 255.2

    A conference address 4This address was first presented in behalf of the ministers of the Michigan Conference of SDA by Loughborough, Hull, and Cornell on the 1861 Battle Creek Conference. They were assisted by Smith ([J. White], “The Conference Address,” RH, Oct. 15, 1861, p. 156). on organization was published as part of the 1863 General Conference Report. This address indicated two categories of church officers in the New Testament: “Those who hold their office by virtue of an especial call from God, and those selected by the church: the former embracing apostles and evangelists; and the latter elders, bishops, pastors, and deacons.” 5Loughborough, Hull, and Cornell, “Conference Address,” RH, Oct. 15, 1861, p. 156 (SDA, Report of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 1863, p. 10). It was brought out that the office of apostle was not confined to the 12 apostles of Christ 7Ibid. One evidence was seen in Ephesians 4:11-13 which suggested that “the office of apostles runs co-extensive with that of pastors and teachers, and other spiritual gifts, and is to last till the church, the body of Christ, all come into the unity of the faith” (ibid.). and could not be restricted to New Testament times. An apostle was seen as “one sent forth, a messenger,” so that “anyone especially sent out of God in any age” leading out in “any new truth or reform” could be called an apostle. An evangelist was described as “a preacher of the gospel, not fixed in any place, but traveling as a missionary to preach the gospel, and establish churches.” At this time any one in the first category was also called a minister. Regarding the second category, it was pointed out that the names elder, bishop, and pastor are synonymous and denote an identical office. This reduced the number of officers to be appointed by the individual churches to two: elders and deacons. As far as the respective responsibilities were concerned, the work of a deacon was to be confined “exclusively to the temporal matters of the church; such, for instance, as taking charge of its finances, making preparation for the celebration of the ordinances, etc” while the work of the elder was “to take the lead and oversight of the church in spiritual things” and function as “chairman in all its business meetings.” 1Ibid., p. 157 (SDA, Report, pp. 14-16). Cf. Frisbie, Church of God, p. 14. Although the offices of deacon and elder were different, he felt they were of equal importance (ibid.). Both the elder and the deacon were to be ordained by a minister. 2Loughborough, et al., “Conference Address,” p. 157 (SDA, Report, p. 15). Textual evidence: Acts 6:6; Titus 1:5 (ibid.). The mutual relationship between the various offices was expressed by the following rule: “That no person by virtue of a lower office can fill a higher one; but any one filling a higher office, can by virtue of that office, act in any of the lower.” 3Ibid. (SDA, Report, p. 14). It was added that “a deacon cannot by virtue of his deaconship, act as an elder, nor an elder as evangelist, nor an evangelist as an apostle; but an apostle can act as an evangelist, elder or deacon; an evangelist as an elder or deacon; and an elder as a deacon.”FSDA 256.1

    In the newly organized church a distinction was made between the leadership and the laity in regard to the question of authority. Referring to church organizations, E. G. White pointed out (in association with Hebrews 13:17, Thes. 5:12, 13, and Matthew 18:15-18) that “there is no higher tribunal upon earth than the church of God. And if the members of the church will not submit to the decision of the church, and will not be counseled and advised by them [local and traveling elders], they cannot be helped.” 4Letter, E. G. White to the Scotts, No. 5, 1863. A warning was given that “God has bestowed power on the church and the ministers of the church, and it is not a light matter to resist the authority and despise the judgment of God’s ministers.” 5Ibid. In case the church should make a judgmental error, she said, “God could take hold of this matter in His own time and vindicate the right” (ibid.). However, as far as the mission of the movement was concerned she stated that “the work does not depend alone upon the ministers. The church-the lay members-must feel their individual responsibility and be working members.” 7Letter, E. G. White to Sawyer, No. 8, 1863. She also said: “It is not in the order of God for one to feel at liberty to express his views independent of the body, another express his, and so on. If such a course should be taken we should not all speak the same things and with one mind glorify God” (ibid.). Regarding the subject of “new light” or “new truth,” she suggested that, in order to prevent confusion and disunity, “no new views should be advocated by preachers or people upon their own responsibility. All new ideas should be thoroughly investigated and decided upon. If there is any weight in them they should be adopted by the body; if not, rejected.”FSDA 257.1

    During the 1870s a discussion arose on the question of leadership. In 1873 J. White declared that “our General Conference is the highest authority with our people, and is designed to take charge of the entire work in this and all other countries.” 1J. White, “Organization,” RH, Aug. 5, 1873, p. 60. In the same year Butler wrote an essay in which he developed the idea that the highest authority of the church should be invested in one individual, namely, J. White. 2Butler, Leadership, 1873. Cf. Butler, “Leadership,” RH, Nov. 18, 1873, pp. 180, 181. He based his views on an analysis of Scripture and statements by E. G. White. The reason for Butler’s position was his desire, as president of the General Conference, to eliminate some problems in regard to responsibility which had arisen among SDA leaders and to improve the unity among them. 4J. White, “Leadership,” RH, Dec. 1, 1874, p. 180 (“Leadership,” in E. G. White, TC, No. 25, p. 187). Cf. J. White, “Leadership,” The Signs of the Times, June 4-July 9, 1874, pp. 4, 5, 12, 20, 28. His view was fully endorsed by the General Conference of November, 1873. After a few weeks of reflection, however, J. White took a position against this concept of leadership. In the context of Christ’s being the head of the church, he stressed the servant aspect of leadership and advocated the “true doctrine of the leadership of Christ and the equality of the ministerial brotherhood.” He reiterated his previous view that the General Conference is the highest authority of God on earth, and conceding that it could make mistakes, he urged that “in view of the authority Christ has invested in the church, and the tender care he has had for our cause, the only safe course for our ministers, and for our people, is to respect the decisions of our General Conference.” In the discussion J. White was supported by his wife. She wrote to Butler that “no man’s judgment should be surrendered to the judgment of any one man. But when the judgment of the General Conference, which is the highest authority that God has upon the earth, is exercised, private independence and private judgment must not be maintained but be surrendered.” Faced with such opposition to Butler’s views, the General Conference reversed itself.FSDA 257.2

    Additional insight into SDA missionary ecclesiology was provided by E. G. White when she expounded the function of the SDA Church in the context of Christ’s mission for the salvation of man. Stressing the importance of the organized church, she said that “the Son of God identified Himself with the office and authority of His organized church. His blessings were to come through the agencies he has ordained,” and she added, “the Redeemer of the world does not sanction the experience and exercises in religious matters independent of his organized and acknowledged church, where he has a church.” 1Letter, E. G. White to Charles Lee, No. 54, 1874 (Testimonies for the Church 3:432, 433). She added that Christ “has all power both in heaven and upon earth, but he respects the means he has ordained for the enlightenment and salvation of men” (ibid. [Testimonies for the Church 3:433]). The biblical principles for this view she found in the conversion experience of Saul in Acts 9. The fact that after his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus Saul was brought in contact with the Christian church in that city she interpreted as follows:FSDA 258.1

    He [Jesus] directs Saul to the church thus, acknowledging the power he has placed upon the church as a channel of light to the world. It is Christ’s organized body upon the earth and respect was required to be paid to his ordinances. Ananias represents Christ in the case of Saul. He also represents Christ’s ministers upon the earth who are appointed to act in Christ’s stead. 2Ibid. Furthermore, she stated that “Saul was a learned teacher in Israel but while under the influence of blind error and prejudice, Christ reveals Himself to him and then places Saul in communication with His church, who are the light of the world. They were to instruct this educated popular orator in the Christian religion. In Christ’s stead, Ananias touches his eyes that they may receive sight. In Christ’s stead he lays his hands upon him praying in Christ’s name, Saul receives the Holy Ghost. All is done in the name and authority of Christ. Christ is the fountain, the church is the channel of communication” (ibid.).FSDA 259.1

    With this ecclesiological self-image the SDA Church saw itself in a highly responsible position in the history of salvation. It was cautioned by E. G. White, however, that the spiritual heritage the SDA had received from the Christian church of history should be highly appreciated. She remarked, “God’s workers to-day constitute the connecting link between the former workers, the church of history, and the church that is to be called out from the world and prepared to meet their Lord,” adding that “all the excellencies that have come through the belief of the truth, from past ages to the present time, are to be treated with the utmost respect.” 3E. G. White, Manuscript 1, 1874 (Special Testimonies to Ministers and Workers 7:11, [Series A]).FSDA 259.2

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