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Foundations of the Seventh-day Adventist Message and Mission - Contents
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    A. The Religious Situation in the United States During the Early Part of the 19th Century

    1. General characterristics

    At the turn of the 19th century American Christianity was predominantly Protestant. In its character the Puritan-Pietist-Evangelical strains were more prominent than in Europe. 1Kenneth S. Latourette, Christianity in a Revolutionary Age..., Vol. III: Nineteenth Century Outside Europe..., 1961, p. 4. Only a small section of the population was officially associated with a church at the time of Independence even though the colonies had experienced the Great Awakening in the 18th century. 2In 1800 estimates of the percentage of the population holding membership in the churches was 6.9; in 1840, 14.5; in 1850, 15.5; in 1900, 35.7 (Herman C. Weber, ed., Yearbook of American Churches, 1933, p. 299). Cf. Latourette, Christianity, 111, 12; Franklin H. Littell, From State Church to Pluralism..., 1962, pp. 48, 49, Robert T. Handy, A Christian America: Protestant Hopes and Historical Realities, 1971, p. 27. The form of membership was on a voluntary basis and not compulsory by State Law. It should be noticed that the congregations were generally considerably larger than the actual membership (ibid., pp. 27, 28). Regarding the value of these statistics, see Winthrop S. Hudson, Religion in America, 2nd ed., 1973, pp. With the adoption of the Constitution a unique feature was introduced in the newly formed nation: the official separation of Church and State. The new Constitution declared that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office of public trust under the United States.” 1Article VI of the Constitution of the U.S.A. The first part of the First Amendment to the Constitution elaborated this further by forbidding the government to issue any law “respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” 2First Amendment of the Constitution of the U.S.A. Religious pluralism, a desire to avoid a State Church situation, and the influence of European rationalism and deism were among the major factors that contributed to the formulation of the principle of religious freedom in the Constitution. 4See e.g., Handy, Christian America, pp. 3, 30. The effect of the Constitution was that it made church organizations no longer dependent on the State for survival and growth but on their own resources and voluntary membership. Its adoption together with increasing immigration stimulated a further development of religious plurality. The result, according to Kenneth Scott Latourette, was that by 1914 “nearly every kind of Christianity found anywhere else in the world was present.”FSDA 3.2

    This religious plurality was an important reason for general weakness of the churches as compared with their position in Europe. The Roman Catholics were in a minority, the Orthodox were very small, Lutherans were less prominent than in Europe, the Episcopalians were only socially important and far less represented than in England, Presbyterians were much weaker than in Scotland, and the Reformed represented but a faint reflection of their position in the Netherlands and Switzerland. The Methodists and Baptists, however, who were minorities in England, together made up more than half of the Protestants. 6Ibid., p. 11. On the growth of Methodists and Baptists, see Sydney E. Ahlstrom, A Religious History of the American People, 1972, pp. 436-39, 441-44. For approximate memberships of the major churches during the 19th century, see Edwin S. Gaustad, Historical Atlas of Religion in America, 1962, pp. 40, 110.FSDA 4.1

    The 19th century was a time of unprecedented geographical expansion for both the nation and the churches. It was during this period that a powerful nationalistic spirit arose, which influenced the development of the missionary movement. The expansion of the U.S.A. differed significantly from that of the European powers. Generally, it was a westward movement into neighboring territories thinly populated by Indians. The Louisiana Purchase from France under Jefferson greatly extended the territory of the nation. Many Americans felt that their Manifest Destiny was: “the conquest of the entire continent, that one day the standard of the Republic would fly over that gigantic sweep of territory which plunged westward to greet the ocean.” 1Clifton E. Olmstead, History of Religion in the United States, 1960, p. 264 With the accession of Florida, Texas, Oregon, and California this ideal was realized. It was “perhaps the most optimistic period” in American history. 2Ibid. To the American Indians, however, the westward move of the white settlers signified one of the most pessimistic periods in their history. In fact, there seemed to be a disparity between the ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence that “all men were created free and equal” and in the treatment of the native population. Under the presidency of Andrew Jackson (1828-36) it became the federal policy to remove all Indians to the western side of the Mississippi in order to vacate potentially prosperous lands for the westward-moving white settlers. The resettlement of the Indians took place relentlessly with much suffering and the cost of many lives. 3Angie Debo, A History of the Indians of the United States, 1970, pp. 101-17, Robert F. Berkhofer, Jr., Salvation and the Savage: An Analysis of Protestant Missions and American Indian Response, 1787-1862, 1965, p. 2. Cf. Gaustad, ed., The Rise of Adventism..., 1974, p. xiv.FSDA 4.2

    In the early 19th century the Industrial Revolution made its initial impact on the country. An accompaniment of this Revolution, together with the territorial expansion, was an enormous growth of population caused by a high birth rate, a reduced death rate, and a tidal wave of immigrants. From 1790 to 1860 the population increased eight times, from nearly four million to more than 31 million. The immigrants, mainly from Europe, were attracted by the demand for unskilled labor in the mines, factories, railway building, and by the vacant lands in the West. There was also the dream of life in a free nation where land was cheap, salaries relatively high, and opportunities unlimited. Furthermore, immigration was prompted by adverse economic conditions and unfavorable political and social developments in Europe. 4Olmstead, United States, pp. 321, 322; Latourette, Christianity, 3:7. Cf. Ahlstrom, American People, p. 516. During the 19th century there was a strong increase of Roman Catholic immigrants. In the period of 1790-1840 the population of the nation increased by less than 4 1/2 times; the Catholics increased nearly 19 times. 5H. Shelton Smith, Robert T. Handy, and Lefferts A. Loetscher, American Christianity, 2, 1963, p. 6. By 1850 they had become the largest single church in America. 6Ahlstrom, American People, pp. 513, 527. The accelerating speed of Catholic immigration inevitably created fear and tension among many Protestants who conceived of the U.S.A. as a Protestant nation. It was felt that the near monopoly of the Protestant churches was threatened by a church known for its authoritarian government and persecuting policies. In the decade following 1825 at least 5,000 Irish Roman Catholics entered the country each year. They not only brought with them their Old World customs, but their progress in Americanization was very slow, arousing fears as to the foreign nature of the Roman Catholic Church-a fear that was strengthened when several Roman Catholic missionary societies were founded in Europe to promote the propagation of the Roman Catholic missionary work in America. 1Cf. Olmstead, United States, pp. 323-26. There was a resurgence of the anti-Catholic tradition of the colonial fathers, who in turn had received their ideas from the Reformation literature-especially from 16th- and 17th-century England. A flood of anti-Catholic publications supported this “no-popery” crusade. 2Ray A. Billington, The Protestant Crusade, 1800-1860, 1938, pp. 1-52. Cf. Jerome L. Clark, 1844, I, 1968, pp. 203-76. In 1829 the English Catholic Emancipation Bill provoked a large increase of anti-Catholic literature which had also its impact on the U.S.A. (Ahlstrom, American People, p. 559). Feelings ran so high that a Catholic convent was burned in 1834. The Protestant opposition developed into a national issue. In 1837 the Native American Party was formed, which had as one of its main aims to curtail immigration. No doubt this side of Protestantism together with its earnest profession of concern for freedom sounded rather hollow to those outside that segment of society. 3Handy, Christian America, p. 58.FSDA 5.1

    Another important element in American Christianity was the impact of millennialism on the American self-consciousness. The early New England Puritans had seen their settlements as God’s new Israel, a “wilderness Zion.” During the American Revolution the place of the nation in God’s plan was often stressed, 4H. S. Smith, et al., American Christianity, 2:4. the Revolution itself being interpreted as one of the greatest events since the Reformation. Frequently from the pulpits the view was presented that it was the destiny of the newly formed Republic to lead the world to millennial glory. 5The thought was expressed that as the nations would increasingly adopt the American “wisdom, liberty, and happiness,” knowledge and religion would be diffused throughout the earth, and mankind would be prepared “for the universal REIGN of the SON OF GOD in the glories of the latter day” (Benjamin Trumbull, A Sermon Delivered at North-Haven, December 11, 1783, cited by J. F. Maclear, “The Republic and the Millennium,” in The Religion of the Republic, ed. by Elwyn A. Smith, 1971, p. 185). Cf. Handy, Christian America, pp. 33, 34.FSDA 6.1

    Various factors contributed to the popularization of this version of America’s destiny. First, there was a Protestant view of history held among many Christians which rested partly on the usual Protestant interpretation of a papal apostasy and the Reformation renewal of the church, and partly on the conviction that the British kingdoms harbored a people chosen by God for unusual service in advancing God’s plan for humanity. This view was modified and applied to the American scene, causing many to consider the nation the “American Israel with all its implications of special election, vocation and guidance,” 6Maclear, “Republic,” p. 188. Cf. William Haller, Elect Nation: The Meaning and Relevance of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, 1963, pp. 52, 53, 224-50; Ernest L. Tuveson, Redeemer Nation: The Idea of America’’s Millennial Role, 1968, pp. 137-75; Ernest R. Sandeen, The Roots of Fundamentalism: British and American Millenarianism 1800-1930, 1970, p. 45; James A. De Jong, As the Waters Cover the Sea: Millennial Expectations in the Rise of Anglo-American Missions 1640-1810, 1970, pp. 51, 29-33. while justifying the rapidly increasing expansion of the new nation. Secondly, during the 18th century there was a growing millennial expectation in evangelical circles; the main emphasis was on postmillennialism-a view which expected the Second Advent of Christ not at the beginning but at the end of the millennial age. The millennial blessing to be enjoyed by the church was often seen to be realized by human means of propagating the gospel in the power of the Spirit. Among the factors which contributed to the acceptance of this idea were the influence from Britain through Protestant immigrants, literature, and personal contacts and its proclamation in the U.S.A. by Jonathan Edwards and his followers. Especially were the religious awakenings of the 1730s-40s occasions for widespread acceptance of this view. 1Ibid., pp. 81-83, 119, 120; Maclear, “Republic,” pp. 189, 190, LeRoy E. Froom, PFF, II, 1948, pp. 640, 649-54; 3:1946, p. 254. Cf. Tuveson, Redeemer Nation, pp. 26-73. The eschatology of Daniel Whitby had English antecedents so that the widely held conclusion that he was the father of postmillennialism is inaccurate (De Jong, Millennial Expectations, pp. 16-29, 36-40, 81-84). Cf. Peter Toon, ed., Puritans, the Millennium and the Future of Israel, 1970. For some of the origins of postmillennialism among English-speaking people, see Toon, “The Latter-Day Glory,” in ibid., pp. 22-41. It also found its way into popular works of Moses Lowman, Thomas Scott, Adam Clarke, and David Bogue. Thus, many undoubtedly expected some kind of glorious state of history, achieved by progressive stages. 2Maclear, “Republic,” p. 189. Thirdly, through revivalistic preaching the millennium became the object of intense speculation and anticipation. The dawn of the millennium seemed imminent. Edwards perceived signs of the coming millennium in the New England converts. Thomas Prince saw the French and Indian wars as “opening a way to enlighten the utmost regions of America” preparatory to the millennial reign. 4Ibid. When the age of reform and benevolence arrived, the millennial role of America became a generally accepted idea among the clergy, and the American achievement was seen as “God’s handiwork, and American history was evolving into the millennium of Christ.” Those ideas seemed to be confirmed by the fact that every day more and more Europeans came to America who considered it a land of opportunity and the hope of the world, in contrast to European reactionism and authoritarianism after the French Revolution.FSDA 6.2

    In American Christianity there were other theological and philosophical forces that provided a willing support for the postmillennial view of the present establishment of the Kingdom of God. The culture in America was becoming more and more democratic with a growing emphasis upon the dignity and worth of man, a concept advocated by Unitarianism, Universalism, the natural rights philosophy, and Jeffersonian individualism. At the same time the burgeoning Methodist denominations proclaimed the Arminian view of God’s infinite love and mercy for all sinful men and reasoned that if God’s plan of salvation included all men, then everyone ought to have the opportunity to accept it. There was an increasing shift of emphasis away from God’s sovereign initiative. 1H. S. Smith, et al., American Christianity, 2:8; Olmstead, United States, p. 265. Cf. William G. Mcloughlin, “Revivalism,” in Gaustad, Adventism, p. 142. The growing man-centeredness was further stimulated by the process of nation building that was going on at that time. The people were occupying an increasingly vast area and developing successfully its resources, and their interest in doing seemed to be greater than in reflecting. Latourette characterized the type of Christianity at this time as “activism.” 2Latourette, Christianity, 3:13. Reference was made to the lay character of Protestant American Christianity (ibid.).FSDA 7.1

    The new spirit of nationalism, the millennial consciousness, the spirit of activism based on a strong emphasis on man’s initiative, and a realization of God’s mercy and love for mankind made a definite impact upon the churches. If the American society was to be won to Christianity, the churches would have to develop a strong missionary program. Many regarded such a program as “the means whereby the West, the nation, and ultimately the world might be redeemed from the disastrous effects of immorality, skepticism and materialism.” 3Olmstead, United States, p. 265. The most immediate concern was the conversion of the U.S.A., which was an enormous task. The missionary efforts were concentrated in three areas: One was the winning of the partially secularized among the descendants of immigrants who had come to the country in the colonial period, another effort concerned persons of other religions-the Indians and Negroes, and the third effort was aimed at the 19th-century immigrants. 4Latourette, Christianity, 3:16-83. Various missionary societies were established, the most important being the American Home Missionary Society, founded in 1826, which was formed by individuals from various churches. However, most denominations realized that the distinctive tenets of their faith could not be maintained in the new regions under this kind of nonecclesiastical control. The strong competitive spirit between denominational and non-denominational organizations had as its result that the purely denominational mission board became standard. 6Olmstead, United States, pp. 280-83. On the anti-mission sentiment, see infra, p. 12, n. 46. The motivations that prompted the rise of the home-missionary movement were also a powerful force in the development of foreign missions. Stirring reports by English missionaries as well as tales of exotic life in the Orient by New England seamen and tourists contributed to the increasing interest in missions. In 1810 the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions was formed.FSDA 8.1

    2. Era of good feeling

    In national politics the “era of good feeling” or the “early national period” started with the inauguration of George Washington as president in 1789 and ended when Andrew Jackson, a hero of the masses, became president in 1829. For American Christianity it was also an “era of good feeling.” Although aspects of anxiety and insecurity could be perceived, 1Cf. Sandeen, “Millennialism,” in Gaustad, Adventism, pp. 107-9, 114, 115; infra, p. 11. the optimistic postmillennial view of the future of society was popular, and the vision of America as a redemptive instrument strengthened the activism of evangelical Protestantism. There seemed to be a strong determination by many churches to keep the Republic a Christian nation even though there was a separation between Church and State. The prospect of a millennial perfection to be established through the Christianization of society by voluntary human endeavor reinforced and sustained evangelical revivals. 2Handy, Christian America, pp. 35, 36. Lyman Beecher argued that if we only pray and wait upon the Lord, He will not come. 4Eliphalet Nott, A Sermon Preached before the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church ... May 19, 1806, cited by Froom, PFF, IV, 1954, p. 60. Of a similar nature was the view of president Eliphalet Nott of Union College: the millennium was at the door and would be “introduced BY HUMAN EXERTIONS.” As far as the commencement of the millennium was concerned Timothy Dwight, president of Yale College, thought he could perceive its “dawn” in 1812. The strategy of many Protestants concerning the Christianization of society was to increase the strength of their churches and influence the Republic through reform and benevolence societies. These were voluntary societies, whose membership often was on an interconfessional basis, and were used by various churches as a “useful bridge across the gap between church and civilization” which had been widened by religious freedom and pluralism.FSDA 9.1

    Apart from the association of millennial views with the triumph of Christian civilization, a number of other forces were responsible for the reform and benevolence movements. One of them was the success of British evangelical and reform societies which inspired similar developments in America. Then, as a result of the Enlightenment, there was a humanitarian concern which had already created an atmosphere favorable to benevolence activity. Serious interest was aroused in the cause of peace and temperance. Furthermore, the changes in theology favored an emphasis on man’s freedom, while minimizing man’s total depravity, and stressing human effort for self-improvement. It was felt that the improvement of society depended much on what man himself would accomplish. Then there was a general atmosphere of optimism. A new nation had been born, devoting itself to the cause of liberty and equality for all, and it was thought that these high ideals could be realized. Finally, there was the aspect of revivalism that, together with the other factors, gave the reform and benevolence movement its power and purpose. 1H. S. Smith, et al., American Christianity, 2:10-17; Brauer, Protestantism, pp. 148-50. Cf. Ahlstrom, American People, pp. 422-28.FSDA 9.2

    This wave of revivalism began with the Second Great Awakening or Great Revival and increased in intensity after 1826 when Charles G. Finney had started his preaching and great revivals swept through the country. In 1830 he moved away from an exclusive stress on personal conversion, and developed a close relationship between revivalism and benevolent action, an approach which made him more acceptable in the eastern part of the country. The remaking of society in the light of the establishment of the kingdom of God was considered as important as converting people and building churches. This union of revivalism and reform contributed greatly to the growth of the benevolence movement. As the century progressed, the interest of Protestantism in temperance, peace, prison reform, poor relief, proper Sunday observance, education, abolition of slavery, and many other moral and social problems grew steadily until social reform became the absorbing passion of many Christians who embraced revivalism. 2H. S. Smith, et al., American Christianity, 1:522-25; 2:12-14. Cf. Olmstead, United States, pp. 348, 349, 359.FSDA 10.1

    In the context of this revivalism and millennial expectation the increase in the consumption of alcohol 3Alice F. Tyler, Freedom’s Ferment..., 1944, pp. 312, 313. was seen by many Christians as a threat to the furtherance of the Christianization of society. Thus a temperance movement was launched which resulted in the founding of the American Temperance Society (1826). In 1836 the American Temperance Union was established on a platform of total abstinence. Large groups of people favored prohibition and conversion methods were used to fight intemperance. Most of the major denominations endorsed the temperance movement whose influence later on was manifested in State prohibition legislation. 4H. S. Smith, et al., American Christianity,II, p. 15; Handy, Christian America, pp. 51, 52; Ahlstrom, American People, p. 426. Cf. Clark, 1844, 11, 199-244. Another area for reform was the decline in the strict observance of Sunday, especially on the frontier. In 1828 the General Union for Promoting the Observance of the Christian Sabbath was organized. Later, as a result of the Sunday reform revival of 1843, the American and Foreign Sabbath Union was established. 6Cf. H. S. Smith, et al., American Christianity, 1;525, 552, 553; 2:15-17; Olmstead, United States, pp. 287, 291, 357, 369. Cf. Ahlstrom, American People, pp. 425, 426; Clark, 1844, II, 346-51. Other issues the evangelical reform hoped to correct were various practices not conducive to Christian morality such as dueling, theater going, card playing, dancing, and prostitution. In 1834 the American Female Moral Reform Society and the Young Men’s Moral Reform Society were founded. Furthermore, peace societies were organized by several states in 1815 with the American Peace Society being organized in 1828. Education was another important concern of the benevolence movement and in 1815 the American Education Society was established. The opinion was generally held that an increase in number and quality of educational institutions would contribute to the Christianization of the world. Protestants contributed considerably to the development of public school systems for primary and elementary education, but it was believed that higher education should remain under private denominational sponsorship. The benevolence societies also supported humanitarian movements in aiding the handicapped and helpless, giving attention to education of the deaf and blind, and the care of the insane. Abolition of slavery was also championed, with the American Anti-Slavery Society being formed in 1833. With the previously mentioned wave of missionary enthusiasm sweeping the country, in 1816 the American Bible Society was established, in 1825 the American Tract Society, and in 1824 the American Sunday School Union. 1Andrews L. Drummond, Story of American Protestantism, 1950, p. 212. Cf. Clark, 1844, II, 13-133, 280-329; 3:17-53, 74-138.FSDA 10.2

    This period also witnessed the rise of a number of utopian communal movements with members dedicating themselves to the establishment of an ideal order along religious lines. Almost all of these held to a literal interpretation of the Bible and were pietistic in their emphasis. Usually however, they adhered to collective ownership of property and put into practice various principles which were advocated by the reform movements. Although their numbers and influence were not large, they generally represented the concern for moral fervor and reform in American religious life. Some of the better known were the Shakers (officially known as the Millennial Church or the United Society of Believers), the Rappites, the Amana Society or Community of True Inspiration, the Hopedale Community, the Brook Farm Community, and the Oneida Community. 2See e.g., John H. Noyes, History of American Socialism, 1961, passim; Olmstead, United States, pp. 338-43; Brauer, Protestantism, pp. 151-60; Tyler, Freedom’s Ferment, pp. 121-25, 130-32, 140-95. Cf. Ahlstrom, American People, pp. 492-501; Robert V. Hine, “Communitarianism,” in Gaustad, Adventism, pp. 70-76; Sweet, American Culture, pp. 291-305; Clark, 1844, II, 139-96.FSDA 11.1

    3. Era of controversy

    During the 1830s the “era of good feeling” gradually gave way to an “era of controversy” 3One has to realize that these descriptions only indicate the dominant character of these periods. Therefore allowance should be made for some overlapping and continuation of specific trends. with rapidly increasing threats to the popular postmillennial views and the success of the benevolence movement.FSDA 11.2

    First, there was the development of “sectionalism.” The survival and identity of the Republic were brought into question by sectional animosities between the various States. Rising tension over slavery, States’ rights, and the anti-Roman Catholic nativism divided many in the country. While millennial dreams stimulated the Northern abolitionists, the Southerners saw the preservation of slavery and the limiting of the power of government as their main interest. Although revivals continued, anti-slavery eclipsed other reforms and divided the churches. 1Maclear, “Republic,” p. 201. Cf. Brauer, Protestantism, pp. 124, 174-84. For British influences on the anti-slavery sentiment, see ibid., pp. 169-77. After 1820 there arose among the Baptists and the Disciples of Christ an anti-mission movement dividing many churches (Olmstead, United States, pp. 271-74; Sweet, American Culture, pp. 272-75; Brauer, Protestantism, pp. 145, 146).FSDA 11.3

    Secondly, the glorious millennial dream cooled off through the devastating effects of the financial depression of 1837, 2Reuben E. E. Harkness, “Social Origins of the Millerite Movement,” Ph.D. dissertation, 1927, pp. 111-16, 121, 130. hindering the effectiveness of the benevolence societies. The spirit of the movement was no longer that of confidence and it became evident that the earlier bright hopes were not to be fulfilled so easily. 3Whitney R. Cross, The Burned-over District: The Social and Intellectual History of Enthusiastic Religion in Western New York, 1800-1850, 1950, pp. 215, 268, 271, 273, 317, 318. Cf. David M. Ludlum, Social Ferment in Vermont 1791-1850, 1939, pp. 62, 76.FSDA 12.1

    Furthermore, revivalism had increased the individualism of the people. Much seemed to depend upon the personal decision of the individual. Non-conformity was both acceptable and desirable, and the quest for truth became paramount. Thus, the whole revivalistic impulse tended to create a fruitful atmosphere out of which not only extremist and perfectionistic ideas could develop, but also new churches and religious movements. 4Brauer traced the origin of dissension and schism within the Protestant churches to the Second Great Awakening (Protestantism, pp. 117-32). Cf. W. S. Hudson, “A Time of Religious Ferment,” in Gaustad, Adventism, pp. 1-17. For anti-denominational trends, see Clark, 1844, I, 182-201. During the 1830s an extremist, “ultraist” party appeared in many of the societies, 5Cf. Cross, Burned-over District, pp. 198, 199, 211-39; Ahlstrom, American People, p. 475. Regarding ultraism Cross said: “The stage of religious emotionalism immediately preceding heterodoxy was that which contemporaries called ultraism. An amorphous thing in an intellectual sense, it can scarcely be considered a system of belief. It is better described as a combination of activities, personalities, and attitudes creating a condition of society which could foster experimental doctrines” (Burned-over District, p. 173). Cf. Ludlum, Social Ferment, p. 55. growing out of the intensity of revivalism that was connected with the reform movement. The revivalists had claimed that their work was done under guidance of the Holy Spirit and their assurance was strengthened by their expectancy of an imminent millennium. Because of this, many societies suffered inner dissensions between absolutists and moderates which divided the churches. In general the rise of perfectionism was one of the clearest expressions of ultraism. Where revivalism had reached its height there was a development of belief in the possibility that Christians could live perfect, sanctified lives. Some types of perfectionism were radical; others moved toward antinomianism. 6H. S. Smith, et al., American Christianity, 11, 16. The frontier in particular was a place where discontent could reign, extremism could develop, and utopian societies could experiment. The rural areas of New England, Pennsylvania, and the Middle West harbored many dissident groups. One of the most conducive places for the rise of new religious movements was in central and western New York State. This area was called “the Burned-over District” because it had been swept over so often by the fires of revivalism. This region witnessed within two decades the rise of Mormonism, Adventism, and Spiritualism. 1Ibid., pp. 17, 18; Olmstead, United States, pp. 334-46; Cross, Burned-over District, pp. 3, 4. Regarding the millennial views of the Early Mormons, the Shakers, John Humphry Noyes, leader of the Oneida community, and William Miller, see Sandeen, Fundamentalism, pp. 47-54.FSDA 12.2

    Finally, during the early part of the 19th century among evangelical Christians there was an increasing emphasis on the study of Bible passages which alluded to the Second Advent-the parousia. First, the emphasis on eschatology, which was stimulated by the events of the French Revolution, 2Commenting on the significance of the French Revolution Sandeen said: “That political cataclysm broke with such force upon Europeans and Americans that no image but an apocalyptic one seemed to give adequate expression to the drama and panoramic sweep of those events” (“Millennialism,” pp. 107, 108). This Revolution was seen to upset the idea of the gradual development of history (ibid., p. 108). took place in Europe; later it arose in America. 3On the European revival, see Froom, PFF, III, 263-751; on the American, ibid., IV 15-426. Cf. Sandeen, Fundamentalism, pp. 3-58; Oliver W. Elsbree, The Rise of the Missionary Spirit in America 1790-1815, 1928, pp. 122, 123. Many participating in these studies became convinced that Christ’s return and the Day of Judgment were imminent and would inaugurate the millennium-a view designated as premillennialism. Consequently, these individuals strongly opposed the current postmillennial views. 4On the millennial polemic, see Froom, PFF, IV, chaps, 15, 16, 18, 19. For the millennial tradition in the U.S.A. (1800-45), see Sandeen, Fundamentalism, pp. 42-58. The principal exponent of premillennialism in America during this period was William Miller (1782-1849). He was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, just following the Revolutionary War in which his father was a captain. Eldest in a family of sixteen children, he was reared in a religious atmosphere in Low Hampton, in northeastern New York State. During his youth he satisfied his thirst for knowledge largely through self-study. He came to be considered unusually well read, self-educated, and conspicuously methodical in all his ways. After marriage he lived for a few years in Poultney, Vermont, where at times he served as deputy sheriff and justice of the peace. Through his friendship with various prominent citizens who were deists Miller gave up his religious convictions and became a deist. In the war between the U.S.A. and Britain (1812-14) he served as lieutenant and captain, which seems to have disillusioned him about his deistic principles as he began to realize the sinful nature of man. When he left the army and began to work as a farmer he devoted more time to existential questions regarding man’s predicament. During this quest for a deeper significance of life he attended the Baptist Church regularly, though he was not a member. In 1816, while publicly reading a sermon on Isaiah 53, Miller experienced conversion and joined this church. Challenged by his deist friends, he began an intensive study of the Bible so that he might justify his decision to accept the Christian faith. 1See Sylvester Bliss, Memoirs of William Miller..., 1853, pp. 1-70; Francis D. Nichol, The Midnight Cry..., 1844, pp. 17-33; Froom, PFF, IV, 455-62. Cf. David L. Rowe, “Thunder and Trumpets: The Millerite Movement ...,” Ph.D. dissertation, 1974, pp. 10-27. On the basis of a two-year investigation, he concluded that, according to Scripture, the Second Advent was premillennial instead of postmillennial 2Generally premillennialists had a pessimistic view on the condition of society and man’s attempts to improve it. They felt that only the cataclysmic return of Christ could bring about the perfect society of the millennium. Postmillennialists were optimistic about the human ability to gradually transform the secular world into an ideal society in which the principles of the kingdom of God would triumph. and within his lifetime, indicating there could be no world conversion before Christ’s return at the beginning of the millennium. 4Sandeen, Fundamentalism, pp. 49, 57, 58. There was a simultaneous increased interest in Britain (ibid., pp. 57, 58). Miller continued the study of the Bible until, as the result of an invitation, he made his first public appearance in 1831 when there was already some excitement in the various Protestant churches over the imminence of the parousia. From that time onward until 1844, he lectured wherever he had a chance. In 1831 Miller prepared a series of eight articles for a Baptist weekly, the Vermont Telegraph, which were published during 1832-33. In 1833 these articles were incorporated in a pamphlet entitled Evidences from Scripture and History of the Second Coming of Christ About the Year A.D. 1843, and of His Personal Reign of 1000 Years. During the same year he was provided by the Baptists with a license to preach. From 1834 onward he devoted all his time to the proclamation of the Second Advent. In 1836 his lectures were published in a book which was reprinted and enlarged several times, and received nation-wide publicity.FSDA 13.1

    In many churches Miller gained numerous followers who became known as the “Millerites.” This interconfessional movement 7The Millerites were of the following persuasions: “Protestant, Episcopal, Methodist Episcopal, Methodist Protestant, Primitive Methodist, Wesleyan Methodist, Close Communion Baptist, and Open Communion Baptist, Calvinists and Arminians, Baptists, Presbyterians, Old and New School Congregationalists, Old and New School Lutherans, Dutch Reformed, etc., etc.” ([Josiah Litch], “RPA,” in ASR, May 1844, p. 90). E. N. Dick’s study of 174 Millerite lecturers indicated that 44.3 were Methodists, 27 Baptists, 9 Congregationalists, 8 Christians, 7 Presbyterians, 2 Episcopalians, 1.5 Dutch Reformed, 0.6 Lutherans, and 0.6 Friends (“The Adventist Crisis of 1843-1844,” Ph.D. dissertation, 1930, pp. 232, 233). On the church affiliation of prominent participants, see David T. Arthur, “Come Out of Babylon: A Study of Millerite Separatism and Denominationalism, 1840-1865,” Ph.D. dissertation, 1970, p. 14. See also infra, pp. 48, 49. swelled into a crusade which reached a climax in the years 1843 and 1844. In North America about 200 ministers accepted Miller’s views and “Advent congregations” were established which had a total number of approximately 50,000 believers. 1Miller, Apology, p. 22. Cf. Joseph Bates, “Incidents in My Past Life,” No. 51, The Youth’s Instructor, May 1863, p. 34 (The Autobiography ... , 1868, p. 294), James White, Life Incidents ..., 1868, p. 236; Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy (1888), 376. Unless indicated otherwise the 1888 ed. of GC has been used. Some of the most influential personalities in this movement were Joshua V. Himes, 2Joshua Vaughan Himes (1805-95) was a minister, reformer and the major publicist promoter and organizer of the Millerite movement. First he learned a trade. Later he experienced conversion. He felt a call to the ministry. A reformer by nature, he opposed liquor traffic and was an assistant to William Lloyd Garrison in his fight against slavery. Himes’ Chardon Street Chapel in Boston became the headquarters for all kinds of reform meetings. In 1839 he invited Miller to speak in his church. Immediately after he was convicted of the correctness of Miller’s teachings, he began to organize the movement more effectively. He launched several periodicals among which were the ST and MC. He also introduced Miller into the large cities and took a leading role in the organization of camp meetings and General Conferences for Second Advent believers. See also Arthur, “Joshua V. Himes and the Cause of Adventism, 1839-1845,” M.A. thesis (University of Chicago), 1963. a minister of the Massachusetts Christian Conference, Josiah Litch, 4Henry Dana Ward (1797-1884) graduated from Harvard. As a reformer he was known in the Anti-Masonic movement. After that he embraced the cause of Adventism. He published several books. One of them, Glad Tidings “For the Kingdom of Heaven Is at Hand,” 1838, was a study on millennialism which reached conclusions somewhat similar to Miller’s. He was chosen as chairman of the first General Conference of Second Advent believers, Boston, 1840. However, owing to his opposition against the setting of a definite time he receded into the background. a minister and member of the New England Methodist Episcopalian Conference, Dr. Henry Dana Ward, a prominent Episcopalian clergyman, Charles Fitch, a minister of the Congregational Church and the Presbyterian Church, Apollos Hale, a Methodist minister, and Sylvester Bliss, a Congregationalist. For some, Miller’s prediction must have implied an instant utopia, especially after the financial depression which prevailed throughout the nation; for others, who were disillusioned with the movements of the 1830s, the premillennial ideas of Miller offered a way out of the religious ultraism which had failed to redeem civilization. 1Cross, Burned-over District, pp. 277, 278, 320; Sweet, American Culture, p. 306. Cf. Henry Morris in Bliss, Review of Morris’ “Modern Chiliasm ...,” 1842, pp. 162, 163; Harkness, “Millerite Movement,” pp. 134-36; Sandeen, “Millennialism,” pp. 115, 116; Rowe, “Millerite Movement,” pp. 37, 55, 64. Still others saw in his prediction a culmination of their desires for the “blessed hope” and deliverance from an evil world.FSDA 14.1

    In summarizing the religious situation at the beginning of the 19th century in the U.S.A. one could say that it provided a climate conducive to the development of new religious movements. There was a relative weakness of the major churches, a religious plurality and the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion which stimulated individual religious expression independent from the larger churches. The democratizing of the American culture, the Second Great Awakening, and further revivalism contributed also to increasing religious individualism. New movements developed from the larger Protestant bodies. With the passing of the era of benevolence, schism and controversy began to reign. The financial depression of 1837, disillusionment with the millennial dreams, and a fast growing Roman Catholicism created feelings of insecurity and discontentment. It was in such an environment that Adventists successfully developed as one of various new religious movements.FSDA 16.1

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