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Foundations of the Seventh-day Adventist Message and Mission - Contents
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    A. Attitudes to Other Churches

    The closer the year 1843 approached, the greater the Millerite missionary endeavors became and the stronger the opposition and antagonism grew. As early as 1841 there was a report of a mob that attempted to break up a meeting of a lecturer who preached on the Midnight Cry. 1T. M. Preble, “A Mob,” The Signs of the Times, January 15, 1841, p. 159. See Rowe, “Millerite Movement,” pp. 213, 214 on the use of violence against Millerites. The next year some opponents accused the Millerites of ultraism, 2D., “More Ultraism,” The Signs of the Times, July 20, 1842, p. 126. See supra, p. 12. several churches took official action against members who sympathized with or adhered to Miller’s ideas, and many churches closed their doors against Millerite lecturers. 4Himes, “Crisis,” p. 140. For a view of the various forms of opposition against Millerites in non-Millerite literature, see Rowe, “Millerite Movement,” pp. 189-213. In an article, “The Crisis has Come!” Himes indicated that the situation, once favorable, had changed and that “the opposition have at length begun to put forth their energies to crush the advocates of the midnight cry, and to hush the voice of alarm to the slumbering virgins.” To a number of Millerites it seemed that the church and the world had combined to overthrow their beliefs and that “Orthodox and Heterodox, Universalists and Calvinists, Unitarians and Infidels, Methodists and Baptists, Drunkards, Swearers and Gamblers, of every grade, are all ‘hail fellows well met,’ if they can only overthrow ‘Miller’ and ‘millerism.’”FSDA 78.2

    In spite of this strong anti-Millerite sentiment, the official position of the leaders of the movement just before 1843 was that-except in the face of actual “persecution”-Millerites should stay in their respective churches to fulfill their task of warning their fellow church members. 1Editorial, “Our Duty,” p. 86.FSDA 79.1

    Previous to 1843 Millerite ecclesiology portrayed the Roman Catholic Church as Babylon and Protestant churches as fulfilling the Laodicean church of Revelation 3, the last period of the Christian church. Faults criticized in Protestantism varied from clerical dominance to heresy and, especially, to “sectarianism,” an aspect which led some Millerites, rather loosely, to associate the Protestant churches also with the term “Babylon” (confusion). 2See supra, p. 48.FSDA 79.2

    1. Separation from Babylon

    And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.... And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. Revelation 18:2, 4.FSDA 79.3

    As anti-Millerite sentiment in the Protestant churches developed rapidly in the year 1843, and large numbers of Millerites began to be disfellowshiped, the concept that Protestantism as well as Roman Catholicism constituted Babylon was formulated into a careful theology and the cry arose, “Babylon is fallen. Come out of her, my people.” Charles Fitch’s sermon, Come Out of Her, My People, set the pace.FSDA 79.4

    Fitch had by now become one of the Millerite leaders. In the first section of his sermon he defined Babylon as antichrist 3Fitch, “Come Out of Her, My People“: A Sermon, p. 5 (repr. in MC, Sept. 21, 1843, p. 33-36). and explained that anyone who opposes the “PERSONAL REIGN of Jesus Christ over this world on David’s throne, is ANTICHRIST.” 4Fitch, Come Out, p. 9. His criterion established, he identified antichrist as the entire Roman Catholic Church, for “when the papacy came into power, they concluded to have Christ reign, not personally, but spiritually, and hence the Pope entered into the stead of Christ, and undertook to rule the world for him-claiming to be God’s vicegerent on earth.” 6Ibid. According to Fitch, the Catholics wished to retain their power so they would be “opposed to Christ’s coming to establish a personal reign.” But, he went on, Protestants also were opposed to Christ’s personal reign, for they had rejected this doctrine and “turned away their ears to the groundless fable of a spiritual reign of Christ, during what is called a temporal millenium [sic] when they expect all the world will be converted; and each sect is expecting at that time to have the predominant influence.” To Fitch the conclusion was inescapable that the Protestant churches also belonged to the category of antichrist, 1Ibid., p. 13. and especially so in view of the opposition of the “Christian sects” to Christ’s personal return during the Jewish sacred year of 1843. “The professed Christian world,” said he, “Catholic and Protestant, are Antichrist.” 2Ibid., p. 15.FSDA 79.5

    The second section of Fitch’s sermon dealt with the fall of Babylon as expressed in Revelation 18:2. It was obvious to him that the language of the text applied to the Roman Catholic Church; but he pointed out that the language characterized also the Protestant churches in view of their spirit of oppression (pro-slavery), their pride, and their desire for power and wealth. 3Ibid., pp. 16, 17.FSDA 80.1

    In the third section Fitch took a step of far-reaching consequence for the interconfessionalism of the Millerite movement. Referring to the call, “Come out of her, my people” (Revelation 18:4), he spelled out its implications as follows:FSDA 80.2

    To come out of Babylon is to be converted to the true scriptural doctrine of the personal coming and the kingdom of Christ; to receive the truth on this subject with all readiness of mind, as you find it plainly written out on the pages of the Bible; to love Christ’s appearing, and rejoice in it, and fully and faithfully to avow to the world your unshrinking belief in God’s word touching this momentous subject, and to do all in your power to open the eyes of others, and influence them to a similar course, that they may be ready to meet their Lord. 4Ibid., p. 18. Only the third section was repr. in The Signs of the Times, September 13, 1843, p. 27, so that the editors avoided giving wider circulation to Fitch’s definition of Babylon with which they did not agree (Arthur, “Babylon,” p. 66).FSDA 80.3

    Then Fitch made the appeal, “If you are a Christian, come out of Babylon! If you intend to be found a Christian when Christ appears, come out of Babylon, and come out NOW!” 5Fitch, Come Out, p. 19. In his call the clergy were also included (ibid., p. 21). Cf. “Letter from T. M. Preble,” The Signs of the Times, September 20, 1843, p. 39; “Letter from Brother Boutelle,” The Signs of the Times, October 18, 1843, p. 65; J. Marsh, “Elder J. Marsh’s Resignation as One of the Editors of the Christian Palladium” (Organ of the Christian Church), The Signs of the Times, November 29, 1843, p. 127; F. G. Brown, “Coming out of the Churches,” The Signs of the Times, January 10, 1844, p. 175; D. Plumb, “Babylon,” MC, Feb. 1, 1844, pp. 218, 219; Brown, “Reasons for Withdrawing from the Church,” AH, March 27, 1844, pp. 58, 59.FSDA 80.4

    In the last section of his sermon he discussed the consequences of refusing to come out of Babylon, consequences which he summarized in his final appeal: “Come out of Babylon or perish.” 6Fitch, Come Out, p. 24.FSDA 80.5

    Published and widely distributed, this sermon became very influential. It is not surprising that many Millerites saw in Fitch’s exposition a biblical explanation for the hostility of their environment and a theological argument for separation. To many it also implied that although ultimately the mercy of Christ was the ground of man’s salvation, separation from fallen Babylon before the close of human probation was an indispensable response on the part of those who loved Christ’s appearing. It was therefore felt that those who would not separate themselves from the churches did not love Christ and could not be saved. Such argumentation was for many sufficient for severing their connection with their churches. Thus, it was only after the Midnight Cry and the Judgment Hour message had been rejected by the other churches and after a reaction had started to counteract Millerite mission efforts, that the cry “Babylon is fallen, Come out of her my people” became vocal as a part of their theology of mission. 1In 1844 there appeared a periodical entitled Babylon the Great is Fallen (Froom, PFF, IV, 625, 772).FSDA 80.6

    Not all Millerite leaders supported Fitch’s ideas. Some considered it their only business to proclaim the Midnight Cry and not to interfere with the question of church membership, an individual matter respecting which “every person must be his own judge.” 2Editorial Comment in “Letter from Boutelle,” p. 65. Only during the late summer of 1844 did the Millerite leaders support separation with any degree of unanimity. 3Himes, “Editorial Correspondence,” AH, September 18, 1844, p. 53. Here Himes stated that there was still some disagreement as to what constituted Babylon. Contemporary sources show that the definitions of Babylon in such general terms as antichrist and Satan’s kingdom and the fall of Babylon as the “end of the world, when Satan’s supremacy shall cease at the coming of Christ” (Bliss, “The Downfall of Great Babylon,” ASR, May 1844, pp. 112-20) do not reflect the general Millerite position but indicate the more moderate view among some of the leaders. Cf. [Marsh], “Come Out of Babylon!” VT, Sept. 11, 1844, p. 127 (RH, Dec. 9, 1851, p. 58); Bates, SAWH, p. 18. For an Advent Christian evaluation of Millerite separatism in the period 1843-44, see Arthur, “Babylon,” pp. 42-83; Arthur, “Millerism,” in Gaustad, Adventism, pp. 162-70. Later Miller deplored the results of Fitch’s views and said that “it prejudiced many against us so that they would not listen to the truth” as well as that “it created a deep feeling of hostility between Adventists and those who did not embrace the doctrine” (Miller, Apology, p. 25). For clerical reactions, see Editorial, “Persecution,” AH, March 6, 1844, pp. 36, 37. On reasons for hostility, see Arthur, “Babylon,” pp. 36-40. A similar attitude to the separation from the churches was taken by a number of British Adventists who seemed to have been influenced by the Millerites. 4Editorial, “Come Out of Her, My People,” SAH, April 2, 1844, pp. 19-21.FSDA 81.1

    The view of the relation of the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches to Babylon was also developed in the context of Revelation 17:5, “And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” At the Second Advent Conference in Boston (January 28, 1844) Miller seems to have commented on this text saying, “If the Roman church was the mother of harlots, then her daughters must be the harlots: and therefore that portion of the Protestant churches that imitate and partake of the spirit of the old mother must be the daughters referred to.” 5Editorial, “The Conference,” AH, February 14, 1844, p. 9. Cf. Himes, “Editorial Correspondence,” p. 53; Editorial, “Coming Out of Babylon,” VT, April 27, 1844, pp. 46, 47; E. G. White, The Spirit of Prophecy 4:233; E. G. White, The Great Controversy, 382, 383. Miller confessed that he had always advised believers to stay in their churches, “but God had ordered it otherwise.” 6Editorial, “Conference,” p. 9. It is probable that Miller allowed for a voluntary separation from the churches. However, he did not support the growing preoccupation of many believers with a call for separatism on the basis of Fitch’s exposition of Revelation 18:4. He doubted the correctness of this interpretation and was concerned that this would divert the attention from the real issue of proclaiming the Midnight Cry (Letter, Miller to Galusha, April 5, 1844). For his difficult dilemma whether or not to support separatism, see Letter, Miller to Himes, AH, May 1, 1844, p. 9. (Incidentally, others besides the Millerites had earlier designated the Protestant churches as the daughters of Babylon. 1David Simpson, A Plea for Religion ..., 1824, pp. 211, 212, 439, 440; Elias Smith, A Discourse: ... Nebuchadnezzar Dream, 1803, p. 22. Here E. Smith characterized the daughters of the mother of harlots as those churches which had been “unscripturally connected with the civil power.” He alluded especially to the Church of England and the early American churches of the colonists.) This view was refined by Joseph Marsh, editor of the Millerite periodical the Voice of Truth, as follows:FSDA 81.2

    There can be no question but that the “woman” is symbolical of the church, and as she is called Babylon, there can be no dispute but that the church is Babylon. What church? We can make no distinction no farther than the figure will justify. It is a mother and her daughters—a family of harlots [Revelation 17:5]. We admit the mother represents the Catholic Church the eldest member of the family; and we believe her daughters symbolize the Protestant sects. If they do not, pray what do they represent? ... We can see no resemblance between the “mother,” a unit, and a “great city [Revelation 17:18].” But the “whole family” most strictly represents that city. Take the whole and the figure is perfect; leave out the children and it is imperfect. 2[Marsh], “Babylon,” p. 128 (RH, Dec. 9, 1851, p. 58).FSDA 82.1

    In view of the prevailing opposition, Babylon’s “oppressive” dimension was especially stressed in the identification of the Protestant churches as a part of Babylon. However, the other dimension of Babylon, “confusion,” was also stressed. It was worked out in a topological relationship between Babel of Genesis 11 and Babylon of the Apocalypse and analyzed against the historical development of the Christian church:FSDA 82.2

    The church commenced building her a tower and a city, under the influence of Catholicism. God confounded her language and scattered her; or different sects have sprung up; each has built a tower, and attempted to build up a city; they too have been confounded and scattered. Hence the work of tower building, confounding and scattering, has gone on until perfect “confusion” reigns throughout Christendom. The great city is complete; and reaching far above its many towers is seen the one first reared by the “mother” of the city. And upon her tower the name of the city is properly inscribed, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS, AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. It is inscribed upon the “mother’s” tower, because as in the case of Babel, the type, “THERE” the works of confounding, and from “THENCE” the scattering commenced. 3Ibid.FSDA 82.3

    A more church-centered approach in defining Babylon, which united the aspects of oppression and confusion, was provided by George Storrs. 4George Storrs (1796-1879) joined the Congregational Church at the age of 19. Later he became a Methodist and felt the call to the preaching ministry. Because of opposition against his anti-slavery activities he withdrew from the Methodist ministry. In 1842 he came under the influence of the Millerites and began to participate in their movement. He was one of the most vigorous advocates of the Seventh Month movement but one of the first to reject it after the second disappointment. His study on the biblical nature of man led him to accept the doctrine of conditional immortality. Fitch accepted his views but Miller and Litch opposed them. Conditionalism was also accepted by SDA. See Appendix II, Principles XIX-XXI, XXIV; Appendix III, 9-12, 21. He reasoned that in the Old Testament, Babylon was the principal oppressor of God’s people; in the New Testament it designated the agents who oppress the church of God. In order to identify contemporary Babylon he first defined the true church of God as “that loving unbroken band of believers in any one place, city or town ‘who were’ of one heart and of one soul” (Acts 4:32) and were characterized by the oneness of John 17:21, 22. 1Storrs, “Come Out of Her, My People,“ MC, Feb. 15, 1844, p. 237. Everything that hindered or destroyed this situation he identified as Babylon; that is to say, asFSDA 82.4

    all these sects, whether Roman Catholics or Protestants, that go to work to divide and bring in “confusion” to the oneness of that Church. And how is this done? It is done by the manufacturing of creeds, whether written or oral, and endeavoring to organize a party; the test of fellowship being now, not love to God and each other, but assent to these creeds.... Now look for the loving Church of God; where is it? All is “confusion”-rent and torn into as many parties as there are agents of sects to carry on the Babylonish work. Instead of the Church of God, a loving, united, brotherly body, delighting to meet each other, you now have Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, etc., etc., down to the end of the list of divisions; and the so called churches are each making war on the other, not because they do not live as holy as themselves, but because their creeds differ; and hence “confusion” or Babylon is truly their name. 2Ibid.FSDA 83.1

    It was these Babylonian agencies, according to Storrs, that prevented and opposed the witness of the doctrine of the Second Advent in 1843. Those participating in these oppressive activities were “the old mother, and all her children; who are known by the family likeness, a domineering, lordly spirit: a spirit to suppress a free search after truth, and a free expression of our conviction of what is truth.” 3Ibid., pp. 237, 238. Such arguments left Storrs no alternative but to endorse Fitch’s conclusion, “Come out of her, my people.” At the same time, he warned his readers not to organize another church, for “no church can be organized by man’s invention but what it becomes Babylon the moment it is organized. The Lord organizes his own church by the strong bonds of love.” 4Ibid., p. 238.FSDA 83.2

    The separation of the Millerites from their respective churches did not take place without criticism. In defense of it, Marsh remarked, “I am aware that by some this will be called ultraism, come-outism, or some other ism; but what of that? we should not seek to please men, but God.” 1“Letter from Bro. Joseph Marsh,” The Signs of the Times, January 3, 1844, p. 166. Cf. Fitch, Come Out, p. 11; Shaw, Second Coming, p. 55; Arthur, “Babylon,” p. 72. Ingemar Lindén applied the criticism of ultraism to the Seventh Month movement (Biblicism Apocalyptik Utopi ..., 1971, pp. 56-59).FSDA 83.3

    2. The Philadelphian church

    Generally, the Millerites considered themselves to be living in the Laodicean state of the church. When they still belonged to their respective churches, they felt it their mission to reform their churches on the doctrine of the 1843 Second Advent. But when, as we have seen, Millerites left the churches and held separate meetings, the Laodicean church came to be considered the nominal church which Christ had spewed out of His mouth (Revelation 3:15), 2Brown, “Withdrawing from the Church,” p. 59. and the interconfessional movement became crystallized as a new and independent religious group.FSDA 84.1

    One of the earliest attempts to discover a biblical explanation for the recent experience of the new religious community was made in 1844 by J. Weston, a Millerite lecturer, and was based on a new interpretation of the seven churches of Revelation. 3See supra, p. 47. He accepted Miller’s interpretation of the churches Ephesus, Smyrna, and Pergamos, but Thyatira he dated from 538 until 1798, and Sardis from 1798 to “the time [that] the Midnight Cry developed the true state of the nominal church.” 4J. Weston, “The Seven Churches,” AH, July 3, 1844, p. 174. Sardis, he said, heard the Midnight Cry but rejected it except for “the few names which have not defiled their garments, in the Sardis church, [who] come out at God’s command, and constitute the Philadelphia church. And the remainder of the Sardis church, after Philadelphia is separated from them, make up the Laodicean church, which is rejected of Christ at his appearing.” 5Ibid. Cf. Editorial, “An Open Door,” MC, June 22, 1843, p. 127; H. H. Gross, “The Times and the Seasons,” WMC, Feb. 7, 1845, p. 51. This new ecclesiological self-understanding, which identified the Millerites with the Philadelphian church, was intimately related to their personal experience. It grew in importance after 1844 and continued to affect relationships with other churches for many years.FSDA 84.2

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