Larger font
Smaller font

Foundations of the Seventh-day Adventist Message and Mission

 - Contents
  • Results
  • Related
  • Featured
No results found for: "".
  • Weighted Relevancy
  • Content Sequence
  • Relevancy
  • Earliest First
  • Latest First
    Larger font
    Smaller font

    D. The Concept of Mission

    The idea of the termination of human probation at the completion of the Midnight Cry of the Seventh Month movement was responsible for an absence of mission activities among non-Adventists after the Disappointment. During 1845-49, especially through the influence of E. G. White, the minds of the believers were gradually taken away from the extreme shut-door view and prepared for future missionary outreach. To facilitate the analysis of this period, a chronological treatment is given of all contemporary and harmonizing non-contemporary source material on the views of E. G. White, which is followed by a discussion of other Sabbatarian Adventists.FSDA 149.1

    1. The views of E. G. White. 1There were two major traditions of interpreting E. G. White’s position on the shut door. One tradition, consisting of eyewitness accounts by SDA, affirmed the view that she did not adhere to the extreme shut-door view after the Bridegroom vision of Feb. 1845. The witnesses were J. White, Mrs. Marion C. Truesdail, Ira Abbey, and John Y. Wilcox (Loughborough, “Response,” RH, Sept. 25, 1866, p. 134; Loughborough, Second Advent Movement, pp. 222-24; George I. Butler, “Advent Experience.-No. 9,” RH, April 7, 1885, p. 217). Cf. Butler’s account of 21 witnesses (ibid.). The other tradition, frequently cited by non-SDA, stated that she advocated the extreme shut-door view for a number of years. The witnesses were I. C. Wellcome, Israel Damman, John Megquier, Mrs. L. S. Burdick (formerly Mrs. John Howell), and Crosier. Their testimony pertained to the period 1845-48. At the time of their testimony they were very critical of SDA. See Grant, True Sabbath, pp. 69-75; Wellcome, Second Advent Message, p. 397; D. M. Canright, Seventh-day Adventism Renounced, 1889, 2nd ed., pp. 143, 144; L. R. Conradi, Ist Frau E. G. White die Prophetin der Endgemeinde?, 193?, p. 29. This tradition assumed that during 1844-51 there was only one shut-door concept in existence, namely the extreme one, which advocated that the door of mercy was forever closed to the world or to sinners in general, whether or not truth had been rejected.

    The Midnight Cry vision (December 1844) and the Bridegroom vision (February 1845) convinced a number of Adventists who had already given up the idea of a shut door that it was shut in the autumn of 1844. 2J. White, A Word to the Little Flock, 22; Letter, E. G. White to Bates, No. 3, 1847. For her views prior to Dec. 1844, see supra, p. 112. The Midnight Cry vision indicated that the door was shut for two classes of individuals: (1) Adventists who had accepted the Midnight Cry but afterward renounced it as a delusion; 3E. G. White [E. G. Harmon], “RSA,” p. 14. This class was also identified with the synagogue of Satan in Revelation 3:9 (ibid., p. 15; cf. Letter, J. White to Jacobs, The Day-Star, September 6, 1845, p. 17). E. G. White stated that “this class were professed Adventists, who had fallen away, and crucified to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame’ [Hebrews 6:6]” (Letter, E. G. White to Curtis, p. 12). (2) “all the wicked world which God had rejected.” 5Letter, E. G. Harmon to Jacobs, The Day-Star, March 14, 1846, p. 7. The wording of this vision, appearing first in a letter written with no intent of its publication, could well have been interpreted as supporting a shut-door concept which excluded all mankind from God’s mercy except those who adhered to the validity of the Midnight Cry of the Seventh Month movement. 1For the tradition of this interpretation, see Letter, Nichols to Miller, April 20, 1846; B. E. Snook and Wm. H. Brinkerhoff, The Visions of E. G. White, Not of God, 1866, pp. 4, 5; H. E. Carver, Mrs. E. G. White’s Claims to Divine Inspiration Examined, 1870, pp. 50, 51; Wellcome, Second Advent Message, p. 397; Grant, True Sabbath, pp. 68-75. Cf. Canright, Seventh-day Adventism, p. 145; Conradi, E. G. White, pp. 21, 22; Lindén, Biblicism, p. 78 (Letter, Lindén to A. L. White, Sept. 3, 1971, p. 8). Curtis’ publication of this vision omitted the shut-door statement (GT, Extra, Jan. 20, 1848, p. [1]). One of the reasons why he omitted this statement could be that either he himself saw in it the extreme shut-door concept, or he felt that the statement was likely to be interpreted as an extreme shut-door view. One of the reasons for its omission in E. G. White’s CEV (cf. E. G. White [E. G. Harmon], “RSA,” p. 12 with CEV, p. 10 [Early Writings, 15]) could well have been to avoid an extreme shut-door interpretation which, to E. G. White, was not the correct meaning of the statement (Manuscript 4, 1883 [Selected Messages 1:62-64]). At a time when mission work among non-Adventists was in its early stages it seemed important to E. G. White as she prepared the materials for her first book that the wording of the vision should correctly convey the understanding and intent of its author. This would lead her to eliminate any expressions which might give support to misinterpretations of the intent of the visions. See E. G. White, “Experience and Views,” RH, Extra, July 21, 1851, p. [2]. For other reasons of omission, see A. L. White, “Ellen G. White and the Shut Door Question,” Unpublished MS, 1971, pp. 33-37. Such interpretation was possible on the basis of the following presuppositions: (1) That all who had not accepted the Midnight Cry had rejected the Advent proclamation, thus symbolizing the wicked world; (2) that the Seventh Month movement had caused a final separation between the righteous and wicked whether or not each individual had consciously rejected the Advent message. Later, in a response to her critics, E. G. White denied that this was the correct interpretation of the vision. As a result of further light 2E. G. White, Manuscript 4, 1883 (Selected Messages 1:63). Here she said that “it was the light given me of God that corrected our error.” The reference to “the light” seems to be an allusion to all her visions on this subject and should not be confined to her first vision. Cf. Loughborough, “Response,” p. 134. on the shut door she defined the term “all the wicked world” more precisely as being “the wicked of the world who having rejected the light, had been rejected of God,” 4E. G. White, Manuscript 4, 1883 (Selected Messages 1:64). adding that “no reference is made to chose who had not seen the light, and therefore were not guilty of its rejection.” The shut door, according to her, pertained to chose who had rejected the Holy Spirit and placed themselves beyond reach of divine mercy.FSDA 149.2

    In February 1845, on her first journey east, E. G. Harmon received the Bridegroom vision 6E. G. White, Spiritual Gifts 2:35-39; Letter, E. G. White to Bates, No. 3, 1847; Letter, E. G. White to Loughborough (Selected Messages 1:74). It seems that this vision was repeated later on-which may explain its chronological place in EW (Loughborough, “Response,” p. 134). -the first vision with missiological aspects. It included both open- and shut-door implications 1Letter, E. G. White to Loughborough (Selected Messages 1:74); Loughborough, “Response,” p. 134. and pictured the Bridegroom coming to the marriage (Mt. 25:10) in the context of the change in Christ’s high-priestly ministry. 2Letter, E. G. Harmon to Jacobs, The Day-Star, March 14, 1846, p. 7 (Early Writings, 54-56). Acceptance of this view led various Adventists to conclude that the door of Mt. 25:10 had also been shut. 4Letter, E. G. White to Loughborough (Selected Messages 1:74). Cf. Loughborough, “Response,” p. 134; Truesdail in Butler, “Advent Experience.-No. 9,” p. 217. Another autobiographical source seemed to indicate that in the same year she revealed to Washington Morse that the nature of this “great work,” which implied “bringing sinners to repentance and salvation,” consisted of a wider proclamation of the judgment warning and the testing of people with “greater light.” As reason for this she wrote that “the mercy of God” had given the world some more time to prepare for the parousia (E. G. White, “Mrs. Ellen G. White,” Signs of the Times, May 4, 1876, p. 165 [Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, 78]. Cf. E. G. White, Spiritual Gifts 2:46). In comparing this account with contemporary sources of the group to which E. G. Harmon belonged, one might conclude that the language she used was quite advanced for 1845. Some sources, however, seem to indicate that the first contacts between E. G. White and Washington Morse did not occur until the summer of 1850 (Washington Morse, “Items of Advent Experience During the Past Fifty Years.-No. 4,” RH, Oct. 16, 1888, p. 642; J. White, “Our Tour East,” AdR, No. 1, Aug. 1850, p. 14; A. L. White, “Memorandum Concerning Washington Morse,” Jan. 21, 1975). The nature of E. G. White’s counsel to Morse could fit the situation in 1850. The fact that she described this experience for the first time in 1876, and because the description of the condition of Morse after the Disappointment could very well be placed in 1845, might have been a reason why this incident was located in 1845. This did not pose a serious problem for E. G. White because she never claimed infallible accuracy for her purely biographical accounts (Spiritual Gifts 3:iii, iv; cf. E. G. White, Manuscript 107, 1909 in Selected Messages 1:37-39; A. L. White, “Morse”). From this one should be careful not to conclude that her 1874 and 1883 statements regarding the shut door were unreliable. The criterion for the reliability of later biographical materials should be whether or not they contradict contemporary source material. Both the 1874 and 1883 statements seem to be in harmony with contemporary sources. It is interesting to notice that she never used her experience with Morse as an argument against her critics. An open-door implication, calling attention to further mission work, appeared in a non-contemporary source. It stated that “there was a great work to be done in the world for those who had not the light and rejected it,” signifying that the contemporary shut-door situation was only of a temporary nature. In 1845 this progressive view was not understood by believers, some criticizing her strongly, which might explain why it was not published at the time. It is possible that in 1845 or 1846 she also received a vision of an expanding mission picturing an increasing number of believers as “jets of light in the world.” 1E. G. White, “Serving God Fervently,” RH, July 26, 1887, p. 466. If her statement that this vision was received in her “very girlhood” (ibid.) signified the period before her marriage, then the vision must be dated earlier than Aug. 30, 1846. It could be that both this vision and the Bridegroom vision occurred on her “first journey east” (Feb. 1845) and brought out the great work still to be done (cf. Letter, E. G. White to Loughborough [Selected Messages 1:74]). Up until this time the future mission task was not clearly defined in contemporary sources.FSDA 150.1

    The first reference that more specifically described the future mission among non-Adventists appeared in an 1847 publication when the Seventh-day Sabbath Reform movement had made some headway among Adventists. In this publication, which included a reprint of the Midnight Cry vision, E. G. White affirmed that there was a shut door in 1844 2Letter, E. G. White to Curtis, p. 12. For the nature of this shut door, see Luke 13:25. Cf. supra, p. 151, n.279. while at the same time revealing through her April 3, 1847 vision that God still had followers in the churches of fallen Babylon. 3Letter, E. G. White to Bates, A Word to the Little Flock, 19 (Early Writings, 33). Whenever the term “church” or “churches” is used in early Sabbatarian Adventist literature as an opposing force, it signifies the church organizations in fallen Babylon. Cf. Bates, SSP, 1847, p. 59; Bates, SAWH, pp. 20-22; J. White, “TAM,” pp. 65, 66 (TAM, pp. 2, 4, 5). In the future when the Sabbath doctrine would be proclaimed “more fully” these individuals would unite with the Sabbatarian Adventists. 5In an autobiographical statement E. G. White stated that through the visions her original idea “that the door of mercy was then [after the Disappointment] forever closed to the world” was changed into a shut-door concept which was limited to certain classes of people. She referred to the following biblical parallels to illustrate this: “There was a shut door in Noah’s day. There was at that time a withdrawal of the Spirit of God from the sinful race that perished in the waters of the flood. God Himself gave the shut-door message to Noah: ‘My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years’ [Genesis 6:3]. There was a shut door in the days of Abraham. Mercy ceased to plead with the inhabitants of Sodom, and all but Lot, with his wife and two daughters, were consumed by the fire sent down from heaven. There was a shut door in Christ’s day. The Son of God declared to the unbelieving Jews of that generation, ‘Your house is left unto you desolate’ [Mt. 23:38]. Looking down the stream of time to the last days, the same infinite power proclaimed through John, ‘These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth’ [Revelation 3:7]. I was shown in vision, and I still believe, that there was a shut door in 1844. All who saw the light of the first and second angels’ messages, and rejected that light, were left in darkness. And those who accepted it and received the Holy Spirit which attended the proclamation of the message from heaven, and who afterward renounced their faith and pronounced their experience a delusion, thereby rejected the Spirit of God, and it no longer pleaded with them” (Manuscript 4, 1883 [Selected Messages 1:63]). Cf. Letter, E. G. White to Loughborough (Selected Messages 1:74). This vision supported the above non-contemporary data that the present absence of mission among non-Adventists was of a temporary nature. This indicates that her shut-door concept was of a somewhat different nature than the previously mentioned views of Miller, Hale and Turner. 1See supra, pp. 106-8.FSDA 152.1

    At the last of a series of conferences among Sabbatarian Adventists (November 1848) E. G. White received a vision regarding “the proclamation of the sealing message” and the necessity of publishing their newly developed views. 2E. G. White, Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, 125. Bates recorded some of the phrases she spoke and published them as part of a publication in January 1849. According to him she said that the believers had had the shut door and that the time had arrived for the Sabbath as the sealing truth. 3Bates, SLG, p. 26. Cf. Bates, TAS, p. 16. Regarding this truth she remarked that “it commenced from the rising of the sun, keeps on its course like the sun, but it never sets” which seems to imply a reference to a future global influence of the Sabbath. 5Ibid., pp. 35, 62. This view probably influenced Bates to conclude that the Sabbath had to be proclaimed to individuals who lived in Europe and Asia. Later E. G. White mentioned that she also saw the future impact of the publication of the sealing truth as “streams of light that went clear around the world.”FSDA 153.1

    When the year 1849 arrived, a new theological framework for mission had been developed in the form of the third angel’s message (sealing message), which included the proclamation of the validity of the past Advent experience and the Sabbath doctrine. But preoccupation with the theological implications of the shut door of Mt. 25:10 was still a reason to prevent mission among non-Adventists. E. G. White’s March 1849 vision removed these theological objections by placing the shut-door concept in the perspective of the change of Christ’s ministry in 1844. She paraphrased Revelation 3:7, 8 by stating “that Jesus had shut the door in the Holy Place, and no man can open it; and that he had opened the door in the Most Holy, and no man can shut it,” 7E. G. White, “DBS,” p. 21 (Early Writings, 42). In 1854 E. G. White commented that “the application of Rev. iii:7, 8 to the Heavenly Sanctuary and Christ’s ministry was entirely new to me” (Supplement to the Christian Experience and Views of Ellen G. White, 4, 1854 [Early Writings, 86]). A few months earlier Bates had applied the term “open door” in referring to Revelation 11:19 and the raising of the veil between the holy and most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary in 1844 (SLG, pp. 19, 20). and inaugurated a gradual development away from the shut door of Mt. 25:10. At that time the phrase, “the Sabbath and the shut door” was frequently used to identify the specific theological position of Sabbatarian Adventists. 8Letter, J. White to the Hastingses, Aug. 26, 1848; Letter, J. White to the Hastingses, Oct. 2, 1848; Bates, SLG, p. 65. The vision confirmed the close inter-relationship between “the Sabbath and the shut door” and integrated it into the third angel’s message in a sanctuary setting. She stated that the commandments of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ, relating to the shut door, could not be separated, and that the time for the commandments of God to shine out, with all their importance, and for God’s people to be tried on the Sabbath truth, was when the door was opened in the Most Holy Place of the Heavenly Sanctuary, where the Ark is, containing the ten commandments. This door was not opened, until the mediation of Jesus was finished in the Holy Place of the Sanctuary in 1844. Then Jesus rose up, and shut the door in the Holy Place, and opened the door in the Most Holy, and passed within the second vail, where he now stands the Ark; and where the faith of Israel now reaches. 1E. G. White, “DBS,” p. 21 (Early Writings, 42). The phrase “the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 12:17) in the vision was used interchangeably with Revelation 14:12 as the central theme of the third angel’s message. Thus, both texts summarized the basic thrust of the third angel ([J. White], “Repairing the Breach,” p. 28; Bates, SAWH, pp. 69, 71; Bates, SSP, 1847, p. 52). Since the Disappointment, according to E. G. White, the Sabbath had become a special test (supra, p. 140, n. 213).FSDA 153.2

    Thus when in 1844 the door of the first apartment of the heavenly sanctuary was closed, the door of the second apartment was opened, and attention came to be focused on the ark, the Decalogue and the Sabbath. From that time onward the people of God were going to be tested on the Sabbath doctrine. The vision therefore set the stage for the Sabbatarian Adventist mission of the third angel’s message: the proclamation of the Sabbath doctrine in the context of the past Advent experience to test God’s people. 2In the light of the April 1847 vision God’s people were also within the various non-Adventist church organizations (Letter, E. G. White to Bates, A Word to the Little Flock, 19 [Early Writings, 33]) so that the Sabbatarian Adventist mission work would eventually embrace the whole of Christianity.FSDA 154.1

    The vision further reaffirmed the views of her first vision regarding the limitation of salvation for those who had rejected truth. In the context of current revivals among non-Adventists and Adventists she described a shut-door view which pertained to the following persons: (1) Non-Adventist ministers “who have rejected the truth”; (2) “some professed Adventists who had rejected the present truth”; (3) their new converts who “appeared to have been really converted” but “if their hearts could be seen, they would appear as black as ever.” 3E. G. White, “DBS,” p. 22 (Early Writings, 43-45). In this context the term “truth” seems to refer to the Advent doctrine of 1844, while the term “present truth” designates the biblical rationale for the Disappointment in the context of the sanctuary theology and the third angel’s message. The term “present truth” was an allusion to 2 Peter 1:12, “Wherefore, I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth.” White defined this term as follows: “In Peter’s time there was present truth, or truth applicable to that present time. The Church has ever had a present truth. The present truth now, is that which shows present duty, and the right position for us who are about to witness the time of trouble, such as never was” (Introduction, The Present Truth, July 1849, p. 1). Already in 1845 the term “present truth” had been used among Adventists (Letter, Nichols to Jacobs, p. 34; Letter, Cook to Jacobs, The Day-Star, November 22, 1845, p. 31). As evidence she referred to the fact that there was no more “the travel [travail] of soul for sinners as used to be ... for the time for their salvation is past.” 4E. G. White, “DBS,” p. 22 (Early Writings, 45). One reason for the omission of the negative description of the inner condition of new converts in 1851 (cf. ibid., with CEV, 27 [Early Writings, 45]) might have been to avoid an interpretation of the omitted phrase which was not intended by E. G. White, namely that there was a shut door for sinners in general. In a time when mission work began to develop such an interpretation could only delay the progress. E. G. White’s explanatory statement in 1854 seems to be an indication that some still had difficulty with the understanding of the vision. She commented that this view on revivals or “false reformations” related “more particularly to those who have heard and rejected the light of the Advent doctrine. They are given over to strong delusions. Such will not have ‘the travail of soul for sinners’ as formerly. Having rejected the Advent, and being given over to the delusions of Satan, ‘the time for their salvation is past’” (Supplement to the Christian Experience and Views of Ellen G. White, 4 [Early Writings, 45]). U. Smith referred the word “their” primarily to the word “ministers,” presumably in the context of non-Adventists (“Objections to the Visions,” RH, Jan. 21, 1862, p. 63). Nichol took a similar position but then especially in the context of Spiritualism (Ellen G. White, pp. 225-28) Lindén applied the word “their” primarily to new converts as a result of the current revivals and reformations through the activity of “nominal Adventist” ministers of the Albany group (Biblicism, pp. 76, 77 [Letter, Lindén to A. L. White, pp. 4, 5]). See also Snook and Brinkerhoff, E. G. White, pp. 6, 7; Carver, E. G. White, pp. 51-55; Grant, “‘Visions and Prophecies,’” WC, July 22, 1874, p. 62; Conradi, E. G. White, pp. 25, 26. Contextual evidence seems to favor a harmonization of the views of Smith, Nichol, and Lindén so that the word “their” indicated ministers and preachers as well as their professed new converts in the contextual setting of revivals outside of the Sabbatarian Adventist community, whether it be among non-Adventists or Adventists. Therefore the final paragraph of the account of this vision in the PT ought to be interpreted as a concluding statement regarding the whole subject matter instead of a reference to just one sentence or section.FSDA 154.2

    In summarizing the missiological significance of the visions one could conclude that: (1) At first the shut-door concept was defined as referring to all who had rejected the Advent doctrine; (2) then the visions indicated that some of God’s people were still in the churches, and would, after being reached successfully through future missionary efforts, separate themselves from Babylon; (3) and finally there was a shift away from a shut-door concept which referred to a limitation of salvation for certain individuals to one in the setting of the sanctuary theology. These developments prepared the minds of Sabbatarian Adventists gradually for a new mission.FSDA 155.1

    2. Shut-door modifications

    When immediately after the Disappointment Edson interpreted this event as a fulfillment of John’s bitter experience of eating the little book (Revelation 10:9, 10), his attention was drawn to the phrase, “Thou must prophesy again” (Revelation 10:11), 1Edson, MS, p. 10. Cf. Letter, Matthias to Miller, p. 56; Gross, “Times and Seasons,” p. 51; Henry Stevens, “Exposition of Revelation Tenth Chapter,” VT, Sept. 24, 1845, p. 463. though he did not realize its significance at that time. In January 1845 J. White received “light on the shut door” 2Letter, J. White to Jacobs, The Day-Star, September 20, 1845, p. 26. Cf. Letter, Turner to Miller, Jan. 20, 1845. He might also have become familiar with the Midnight Cry vision (E. G. White, Spiritual Gifts 2:35-38). and began lecturing on the Bridegroom theme. 4For others who allowed limited mission in a shut-door context, see supra, pp. 108-12. He probably was aware of the views of Hale and Turner which advocated a shut door for all who had rejected the truth but allowing mission activity among the very few who were not yet fully acquainted with the Advent doctrine and were living in accordance with the light received. This awareness together with his support for another time-setting movement 1Letter, J. White to Jacobs, The Day-Star, September 20, 1845, pp. 25, 26. For the difference between the major types of time settings after the Disappointment, see supra, p. 114. To J. White the “waiting, watching time” was only one year which he divided into four watches. He remarked that “the watches are 3 months each: The first commencing on the 10th [of the 7th month 1844], reached to January [1845], when we got light on the shut door. The second brought us to the Passover (Midnight, or midway in this watching night). The third brought us to the supposed end of the 1335 days in July, since which we have been in the morning watch.... Three have passed, and there is but four. All who see this light will receive a certainty that before the 10th day of the 7th month 1845, our King will come, and we will watch, and like Noah, know the day (Revelation 3:3)” (ibid.). Cf. W. Thayer, “The Watches,” The Day-Star, July 8, 1845, pp. 34, 35; Editorial, “The Watches,” The Day-Star, July 15, 1845, p. 38-40; Letter, R. G. Bunting to Jacobs, The Day-Star, September 6, 1845, p. 18. Many expected the parousia at that predicted time (Editorial, “The Meetings,” The Day-Star, November 1, 1845, p. 14; J. White, A Word to the Little Flock, 22). For other exact time settings see e.g., Letter, Miller to Himes, AH, November 27, 1844, p. 128; Letter, Crosier to Pearson, p. [4], Letter, Edson to Snow, pp. 90, 91; Letter, Nichols to Jacobs, p. 34; Edson, Time of the End, pp. 13, 15; Bates, TAS, pp. 10, 11. Cf. [J. White] “Our Present Work,” RH, Aug. 19, 1851, p. 13. E. G. White stated that time “will never again be a test” (“DBS,” The Present Truth, November 1850, p. 86). Cf. E. G. White, CEV, 1882, p. 64 (EW, p. 75). For a number of decades the term “this generation” (Mt. 24:34) was employed to stress the imminence of the parousia. See e.g., Nichols, “This Generation ...,” RH, Nov. 18, 1858, p. 204; Loughborough, “This Generation,” RH, March 25, 1862, p. 135; Bates, “The Second Advent,” RH, May 7, 1867, p. 254; J. White, “Present Truth and Present Conflicts ...,” RH, Nov. 29, 1870, p. 188. Cf. Edson, Time of the End, p. 13. Later E. G. White applied “this generation” to those who saw the signs of the darkening of the sun and moon, and the fading of the stars (The Desire of Ages, 1898, 632). predicting Christ’s return on the 10th day of the seventh month 1845, and his knowledge of the February 1845 vision, may have caused him to do some mission work in 1845 among those who had not yet received a full understanding of the Advent doctrine. 2Cf. Loughborough, “Response,” p. 134. Such an attitude was in harmony with several contemporary views which indicated that one could affirm the validity of the Seventh Month movement while rejecting the idea of the closing of the door of mercy to everyone outside this movement after the autumn of 1844. 4Letter, J. White to Jacobs, The Day-Star, September 20, 1845, p. 26. Cf. Letter, J. White to Jacobs, The Day-Star, October 11, 1845, p. 47. Toward the end of the 1845 time-setting movement J. White stated that “the atonement ended” in October 1844 when the year of the redeemed began and “the last faint ray of hope was taken up from a wicked world and church.” A belief in the completion of the atonement, however, did not automatically rule out all mission work. After the passing of the seventh month of 1845 White became more specific and pointed out that “Jerusalem’s conquest is accomplished,” indicating that his task was no longer “to combat with opponents but in meekness and love give each one of the household [Adventists] his portion of meat in due season.” Although he did not clearly define his shut-door view, the fact that he saw no possibility for the salvation of “a wicked world and church” and “opponents” seems to indicate that these people were excluded from God’s mercy because of their rejection of the Advent doctrine.FSDA 155.2

    Crosier’s sanctuary treatise of 1846 referred not only to a continuation of atonement after 1844 but also to the existence of a period of transition from the Gospel dispensation to the next dispensation. 1See supra, p. 131. At that time he expected the Gospel dispensation to end in the spring of 1847 ([Crosier], Remarks, p. 2). He said that this transition time was partly characterized by the text, “Thou must prophesy again” (Revelation 10:11), “whatever the nature of this prophesying may be.” 2Crosier, “Law of Moses,” pp. 43, 44. Although his position on the shut door was not clearly defined because of his transition period and the absence of the term “shut door,” 4Crosier, “Law of Moses,” p. 44. an analysis of his use of the term “open door” may provide some insight. Crosier’s remark that “the Philadelphia church, having ‘an open door’ [Revelation 3:8] gave the Midnight Cry” seems to suggest that he adhered to a door-of-access concept. Adventists who advocated this kind of shut door referred to the period before the Disappointment when the Millerites, the Philadelphian church, proclaimed the Midnight Cry as a period of great access to the people-as having an open door-, in contrast to the impossibility of gaining access after October 22, 1844. It is worthy of voice that his friend and associate Franklin B. Hahn, M.D., who was a Sabbatarian Adventist for several years, earlier objected to the use of the expression the “door of mercy being closed against sinners” because it was unscriptural.FSDA 157.1

    By 1847 J. White had accepted the concept of the continuation of Christ’s atonement. 8J. White, A Word to the Little Flock, 9. Cf. Bates, SAWH, p. 60. In the same publication which carried E. G. White’s April 1847 vision on the future mission among God’s people in the churches, he wrote that from the ascension, to the shutting of the door, Oct. 1844, Jesus stood with wide-spread arms of love, and mercy; ready to receive, and plead the cause of every sinner, who would come to God by him.FSDA 157.2

    On the 10th day of the 7th month, 1844, he passed into the Holy of Holies, where he has since been a merciful “high priest over the house of God.” 9J. White, A Word to the Little Flock, 2. Cf. “To the Believers Scattered Abroad,” p. 23; Letter, Nichols to Miller, April 20, 1846. As textual evidence for the condition after Oct. 1844, J. White cited Isaiah 59:16, “And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor” (A Word to the Little Flock, 2). J. White’s view of Jesus’ mercy could only be in harmony with her vision if His ministry over the “house of God” included God’s people outside of the faithful Adventists. If not, it would contradict the vision. This is true also of Bates’ 1847 statement that E. G. White’s visions were to comfort and strengthen God’s “‘scattered,’ ‘torn,’ and ‘peeled people,’ since the closing up of our work for the world in October 1844.” 1Bates, “Remarks,” A Word to the Little Flock, 21. To him the fact that the mystery of God (Revelation 10:7) was finished implied that “there is no more mediation for the world” (SAWH, p. 38). Already in the spring of 1845 he said, “the door is shut-not half or three-quarters of the way-but effectually” (Letter, Bates to Snow, JS, May 29, 1845, p. 90). In the same year, however, Bates denied that the “door of mercy” was closed because such terminology was unscriptural. 2Bates, SAWH, p. 68. He added: “I have no desire nor wish in my soul to see my worst enemy lost. I think I have made it manifest for the last twenty years, and am still willing to do what I can to save those that will help themselves. But I am perfectly sensible that it cannot [sic] be done only in God’s appointed way.” The shut doors of Mt. 25:10 and Luke 13:25 he explained in the context of Christ-the open door of the Philadelphian church (John 10:7, 9; 14:6; Revelation 3:7, 8), 4Ibid., pp. 67, 68. and attributed the closing of Paul’s door of access to the Gentiles (1 Corinthians 16:9) to the 1844 change in His ministry. When he still believed that the three angels’ messages had completed their mission, Bates remarked that in the autumn of 1844 “ended our last work in warning the world; and our labor ceased. Why? Because the messages ceased, and left us entirely destitute of labor.” Although he desired the salvation of non-Adventists, he was bound by a theological understanding of the shut door which made further mission work unbiblical. He therefore had to reject the rumors of new conversions from the “Babylonian revivals,” seeing as his only task the reclaiming of backsliders among Adventists.FSDA 157.3

    There were various reasons for the reluctance to engage in mission activity among non-Adventists: (1) A preoccupation with the idea that the shut door of Mt. 25:10 referred to a limitation of God’s mercy for non-Adventists; (2) the absence of a new theology of mission during the first few years after 1844, making it difficult to proclaim a relevant message which would arrest the attention of non-Adventists; (3) the incompatibility of future mission with the idea of an imminent Second Advent; (4) the difficulty of gaining access to non-Adventists because of their great prejudice toward Adventism. 9For the last reason, see E. G. White, “Travel,” p. 377. Cf. Editorial, “Door of Matthew 25:10,” p. 28.FSDA 158.1

    In 1848 Eli Curtis, who was a Sabbatarian Adventist at this time, published a poem on the sanctuary and shut door which designated the period after the Disappointment as “the gleaning time” (Isaiah 17:6) 1Poem, GT, Extra, Jan. 20, 1848, p. [3]. Cf. Edson, “Appeal,” pp. 2, 3. and placed the closing of probation in the future. 2Poem, p. [3]. A section of this poem (brackets his) read:
    Our “Great High Priest” hath entered in,
    To “the most holy place:” [1 Kings 8:6]
    Until “He comes out as King of Kings,” [Revelation 19:16]
    Sinners may obtain his grace.
    For tho’ the Master of the house arose, [Luke 13:25]
    In the fall of forty four;
    Yet probation will not fully close,
    Till He comes out, and shuts the door [Matthew 25:10].
    His shut-door concept was related to the door of access and explained as the “great effectual door” (1 Corinthians 16:9) which “seems to have been closed more than three years since; as our experience very plainly teaches, but not the door of mercy!” 3Editorial Comment, GT, Extra, Jan. 20, 1848, p. [3]. The periodical contained the Midnight Cry vision from which the shut-door statement had been omitted.
    FSDA 158.2

    During this year the term “shut door” was applied by J. White in a broader framework than the limitation of salvation for certain people. Although he still stated that “Jesus had left his mediatorial throne,” 4Letter, J. White to the Hastingses, Aug. 26, 1848. Cf. Letter, E. G. White to Bates, No. 3, 1847. This could be a reference to the throne in the first apartment of the heavenly sanctuary, see supra, p. 121. he remarked that “the principal points on which we dwell as present truth are the 7th Day Sabbath and Shut Door. In this we wish to honor God’s most holy institution and also acknowledge the work of God in our Second Advent experience.” 5Letter, J. White to the Hastingses, Oct. 2, 1848. It showed that the shut door was not confined to the idea of limited mercy for certain people, but included the Advent experience as a part of salvation history. In fact the contemporary theological position or the “present truth” could be summarized under the heading of “the Sabbath and shut door,” 7[J. White], “Repairing the Breach,” p. 28; Edson, “Beloved Brethren, Scattered Abroad-,“The Present Truth, December 1849, p. 34. which was nothing less than a paraphrase of the interrelationship of the central theme of the third angel’s message indicated by the phrase “the commandments of God and the testimony or faith of Jesus.” In 1849 both J. White and Edson referred to the present truth as the Sabbath doctrine and the Advent experience.FSDA 159.1

    In 1849 Sabbatarian Adventists continued emphasizing shut-door views, though various statements were made to embrace within divine mercy certain categories of non-Adventists. The publication, which included E. G. White’s reference implying a global influence of the sealing truth, contained a modification of Bates’s previous shut-door concept. In considering who would constitute the 144,000 (Revelation 7:1-8; 14:1-5, Midnight Cry vision), he suggested that one part was to be made up of those Adventists who participated in “the advent messages” of Revelation 14:6-13 and observed the Sabbath, while the other part consisted of “those who do not yet, so well understand the advent doctrine, but are endeavoring to serve God with their whole hearts, and are willing, and will receive this covenant [the Decalogue] and Sabbath as soon as they hear it explained.” 1Bates, SLG, pp. 60-62. Because the term “advent doctrine” was generally used by believers as a reference to the doctrine of the Seventh Month movement, 2See e.g., Bates, SAWH, p. 28; J. White, “Voice of the Fourth Angel,” AdR, No. 2, Aug. 1850, p. 6; Letter, E. G. White to the Collinses, No. 4, 1850. the second group represented God’s people who had some understanding of Christ’s return but had not, like Adventists in North America, participated in the movement. Commenting on the extensiveness of the mission of the sealing message, Bates said that “the United States certainly will have it. England and Russia both have colonies on this continent. England will surely have it. France is but twenty-one miles from Great Britain. This is in the future, and can all, for what I see, be fulfilled.” 4Ibid., p. 62. Here he said: “I think the evidence is pretty clear that a part of the 144,000 will come from the east; the river Euphrates will be dried up for them to cross over at the pouring out of the sixth seal, in ‘THE GREAT DAY OF THE LORD.’ Esdras xiii:40-47. Isaiah 11:15, 16. Revelation 16:12.” He even thought that some of the 144,000 would come from Asia, from an area east of the river Euphrates.FSDA 159.2

    David Arnold, another Sabbatarian Adventist pioneer, advocated a shut-door concept 5Arnold’s shut-door concept of Mt. 25:10 referred to the closing of the door of the first apartment of the heavenly sanctuary by Christ (Revelation 3:7) and a corresponding change in His relation to the world, leaving the present generation who were accountable for their actions in 1844 without mercy because there was no Intercessor any more in the first apartment (Arnold, “The Shut Door Explained,” The Present Truth, December 1849, pp. 43-45). Cf. Arnold, “Daniel’s Visions, the 2300 Days, and the Shut Door,” The Present Truth, March 1850, pp. 60, 63. in which divine mercy was extended to individuals who had passed the “line of accountability” after the Disappointment because “as they were then [on October 22] in a state of INNOCENCY, they were entitled to a record upon the breastplate of judgment as much as those who had sinned and received pardon; and are therefore subjects of the present intercession of our great high priest.” 6Arnold, “Shut Door,” p. 45. Regarding the breastplate of judgment, see Bates, SLG, p. 20; supra, pp. 118, n. 96; 132, n. 173. Although his concept referred to the existence of an “open door” (Revelation 3:8) for non-Adventist children, 8Ibid, p. 46. Cf. Hotchkiss, “Reformations,” VT, March 26, 1845, p. 47 (The Day-Star, April 15, 1845, p. 39); Bates, SAWH, pp. 52, 79; [J. White], “Miller’s Dream,” p. 74 (Miller’s Dream, p. 6); E. G. White, “DBS,” The Present Truth, March 1850, p. 64; E. G. White, Spiritual Gifts 2:123. he rejected the possibility of conversions among those who were accountable for their actions in 1844 but had not accepted the Advent doctrine. Conversions from this group he disqualified on the basis of Hosea 5:6, 7 and described them as “strange children” who were “converted to the religion of the various sects, but not to God, and the high standard of the Bible. “FSDA 160.1

    J. White, while adhering to a shut-door view, 1Cf. J. White, “TAM,” pp. 65, 66 (TAM, pp. 3, 5). expected extensive mission work among non-Adventists when he pointed out that “the Sabbath truth is yet to ring through the land, as the Advent never has.” 2Letter, J. White to Bowles, Nov. 8, 1849.FSDA 161.1

    These views of an expanding mission were influenced by the following factors: (1) The views of E. G. White referring to a future mission work among non-Adventists; (2) the immense task for Sabbatarian Adventists, who numbered only “about one hundred” in 1849, 3J. White, “The Cause,” RH, July 23, 1857, p. 93. to reach their mission goal of 144,000 before Christ’s imminent return. The scarcity of source material with open-door allusions in 1849, however, was evidence that the implications of the visions had not yet been fully understood, but suggestions to include certain groups of non-Adventists in the intercessory work of Christ indicated that the shut-door concept of some of the leaders had undergone a modification, preparing the way for a gradual shift toward an open-door position in mission. 4Through a selective use of facts Lindén proposed the thesis that E. G. White’s visions reflected the “heretical” shut-door concept of Hale and Turner according to which salvation in principle was no longer possible for the world (Lindén, Biblicism, pp. 75, 76, 84; Letter, Lindén to A. L. White, pp. 4, 11). To prove his thesis he made an exclusive use of contemporary source material. The most important arguments he selected were: The Midnight Cry vision; the Bridegroom vision; the March 1849 vision; Letter, E. G. White to Bates, July 13, 1847; the omissions in reprints of visions in CEV; and a June 29, 1851 vision at Camden which was never recognized as genuine by SDA (see supra, pp. 149-51, 154; infra, p. 276). He omitted, however, important contemporary data such as the future mission aspect in the April 1847 vision and the new shut-door concept in the context of the sanctuary theology in the March 1849 vision which contributed significantly to the development of a new theology of mission. Cf. E. G. White’s views with the shut-door criterion of Hale and Turner (supra, p. 108). The fact that Lindén designated the shut-door concept as heretical inevitably affected his objectivity and the conclusion of his study. A similar attitude could be discovered in the publications by Carver and Canright. For the tradition of critics who suggested the genuineness of the “Camden vision,” see “The Camden Vision,” attributed to E. G. White by R. R. Chapin, Snook and Brinkerhoff, E. G. White, pp. 6, 7; Carver, E. G. White, pp. 31-33, 56-58; Grant, “‘Visions and Prophecies,’” WC, Jan. 27, 1875, p. 62; Canright, Life of Mrs. E. G. White, 1919, p. 150. E. G. White did not acknowledge its genuineness. However, Carver attempted to show the opposite (E. G. White, pp. 31-33). E. G. White’s attitude can be understood through the fact that little is known about the origin of the vision. No contemporary evidence seems to be available, while the historical data provided by her critics as to the time and place of the vision were inaccurate.FSDA 161.2

    From the account presented above, one could infer that the shut-door views had paralyzed the activities of Sabbatarian Adventists, but in reality the situation was different. J. White interpreted the period from 1844 till 1848 as “the scattering time” of Ezek. 34 5[J. White], “Repairing the Breach,” p. 28. Cf. Edson, “Beloved Brethren,” p. 34; E. G. White, “DBS,” p. 86 (Early Writings, 74). when the leaders of the Advent movement had been “scattering the flock since 1844, by opposing the present truth,” 6[J. White], “Repairing the Breach,” p. 28. During that time the opposition against the Sabbath doctrine was quite successful ([J. White], “Sketch of the Past,” p. 5). but indicated that since the spring of 1848 the “work of uniting the brethren on the great truths connected with the message of the third angel commenced-.” 1Ibid. On the importance of 1848, see supra, p. 143. The 1844-48 period can be described as a time of intensive search for a new interpretation of the events associated with the termination of the time calculations, while at the same time vigorous efforts were made to convince Adventists of the validity of the Seventh Month movement. Only when this search, which placed the Millerite motives for mission in a framework of post-1844 theological developments, had been achieved in 1848 could the mission of the Sabbatarian Adventists be in any way successful. Already in 1849, when their first periodical The Present Truth was published and widely distributed among Adventists, 2Letter, J. White to Bowles, Oct. 17, 1849. J. White stated that “the gathering time has come, and the sheep are beginning to hear the cheering voice of the true Shepherd, in the commandments of God, and the testimony of Jesus, as they are being more fully proclaimed. The message will go, the sheep will be gathered into the present truth.” 4E. G. White, “DBS,” p. 32 (Early Writings, 48). At the same time, E. G. White urged believers “to rescue souls from the coming storm of wrath.” From that time onward, various Sabbatarian Adventists were actively engaged in spreading the present truth predominantly among other Adventists. Early in 1850 E. G. White commented on the result of these missionary activities that “souls are coming out upon the truth all around here. They are those who have not heard the Advent doctrine and some of them are those who went forth to meet the Bridegroom in 1844, but since that time have been deceived by false shepherds.” About this time J. White published the first Sabbatarian Adventist hymnal which included a hymn on the “Fall of Babylon” with the phrase “Come ‘my people’ and forsake her,” implying the presence of God’s people within fallen Babylon and a mission call for separation. These developments indicated that the shut-door concept at that time was of such a nature that it allowed for successful missionary work among both Adventists and non-Adventists.FSDA 161.3

    From 1850 onward there was a further modification of the shut-door concept. Due to the successful mission praxis among non-Adventists the concept of an open door was stressed. However, the idea of a shut door in 1844 was retained in the SDA view of salvation history. Developments in the interpretation of Mt. 25:1-11 and the understanding of the shut door in relation to the mission praxis during the period of 1850-74 will be discussed in Chapter VI.FSDA 162.1

    3. Summary

    The Disappointment practically terminated all mission efforts of Adventists because of their general understanding that the door of mercy was closed for humanity with the completion of the Midnight Cry of the Seventh Month movement. When time continued and the Second Advent did not take place, the Bridegroom theme, hostile reactions of the public, and difficulties in getting attention of non-Adventists due to prejudicial attitudes, provided sufficient arguments for the early Sabbatarian Adventists to accept the validity of the Seventh Month movement and the idea that the door was shut. There existed a number of shut-door concepts, some of which allowed mission activity on a very limited scale, others being more restrictive. But whatever shut-door concept was advocated, there were no significant results in converting non-Adventists during the 1845-1849 period. The gradual change in the meaning of the shut door among Sabbatarian Adventists could be attributed to the influence of E. G. White’s views on a successful mission in the future. In general it can be said that first the shut-door views excluded salvation for all who had rejected the Advent doctrine, then the concept was enlarged to embrace God’s activities in the Advent experience, and at last it extended the possibility of salvation to other categories of individuals besides Adventists. Although these individuals were to be the target of a new mission outreach, it was not until 1850 that the new mission efforts had success.FSDA 163.1

    Larger font
    Smaller font