Seventh-day Adventism originated about seventy-five years ago in the work of Mr. Miller, who set the time for the end of the world in 1843-4. Adding some doctrines to the original faith, Elder James White and wife in 1846 became the leaders of the Seventh-day branch of Adventism. Their headquarters were at different times at Paris, Me., Saratoga, Oswego, and Rochester, N.Y. In 1855 they settled permanently at Battle Creek, Mich., which remained the center of the work till recently.
In doctrine they differ radically from evangelical churches. The main points are these as taught in all their books: They hold to the materiality of all things; believe in the sonship of Christ; believe that they only have a correct understanding of the prophecies to which they give most of their attention; that the end of the world is to occur in this generation; that we are now in the Judgment which began in 1844; that the Seventh day, Saturday, must be kept; that keeping Sunday is the mark of the beast; that all should pay tithes; that Mrs. White is inspired as were the writers of the Bible; that the Bible must be interpreted to harmonize with her writings; that they are called of God to give the last warning to the World; that the dead are unconscious; that the wicked and the devil will be annihilated; that all churches but their own are Babylon and rejected of God; that everybody but themselves will soon become spiritualists; that when Christ comes only 144,000 out of all then living on the earth will be saved, and all these will be Seventh-day Adventists. Hence, they have no fellowship with other Christians; never work with them in any way, but zealously proselyte from all.
They believe in the Bible, in conversion, in purity of life, in rigid temperance, in strict morality, and in other good things common to all churches. There are many excellent persons among them. In character they are not to be compared with the spiritualists, infidels, etc., as is sometimes unjustly done.
Their Year Book for 1912 reports the following:
Conferences, 129; mission fields, 87; organized churches, 2,769; membership, 90,808; unorganized, 15,758; total, 104,528. Ordained ministers, 828; licensed ministers, 458; missionaries, 1,234; book canvassers, 1,697; total laborers, 4,346; Sabbath Schools, 4,151; membership, 101,161; church schools, 594; students, 13,357; colleges and academies, 86; students, 7,169; publishing houses, 28; employees, 610; sanitariums, 74; employees, 1,989; tithes, $1,338,689.65; average per member, $12.81; contributions for missions, home church work, tithes and all funds by the denomination, $2,223,767.52.
They publish 121 periodicals in twenty-eight languages. Books and tracts published in ninety-one languages.
The above will give a fair idea of the strength of that church. However, their main efficiency is in the distribution of their literature. Every member, old and young, down to little children, is taught and urged to engage in every way possible in distributing these tracts, papers and books through every possible channel. Every one believes he is doing God's work when he does this. Hence every member is a missionary in some way. The result is their literature is coming to be widely scattered the world over. Yet the results of all this tremendous outlay of money and work are very meagre. In the last four years with 4,000 laborers in the field, they have only averaged a gain of 4,000 members per year, or one for every worker. They have been at work now for seventy-five years to get 104,000 members. The Mormons, starting about the same date, now number 500,000, nearly five times as many. The Christian Scientists, only about half as old, have over a million members. There is very little real spiritual power in it. The work is done mostly by hard labor and argument, not by any such mighty power as attended the work of the Apostles, or Luther, or Wesley, or Moody and many others. Their work now extends to all parts of the civilized world and into many heathen lands.
The number of their actual converts does not tell the harm they do. Where they convert one they confuse a score, who after that have no settled faith in any church, and are useless for any Christian work. Other conscientious persons are bothered and worried over it for years, not knowing what to do.
One of the highly objectionable features of that system is the bitter hostility of its believers towards all other churches. Their theory is that all churches but their own were utterly rejected of God in 1844 for not embracing Miller's doctrine. Thus Mrs. White says: "I saw the state of the different churches since the second angel proclaimed their fall [in 1844]. They have been growing more and more corrupt.... Satan has taken full possession of the churches as a body.... The churches were left as were the Jews; and they have been filling up with every unclean and hateful bird. I saw great iniquity and vileness in the churches; yet they profess to be Christians. Their professions, their prayers and their exhortations are an abomination in the sight of God. Said the angel, God will not smell in their assemblies. Selfishness, fraud and deceit are practiced by them without the reprovings of conscience." Spiritual Gifts, Vol. I, page 189, 190. She says it is the devil who answers their prayers. Thus: "I saw them look up to the throne and pray, Father give us thy spirit; Satan would then breathe upon them an unholy influence." Early Writings, page 47. Again: "The nominal churches are filled with fornication and adultery, crime and murder, the result of base, lustful passion; but these things are kept covered." Testimonies, Vol. II, page 449. All intelligent people know that such statements are a misrepresentation of the evangelical churches today. Elder White says: "Babylon, the nominal church, is fallen; God's people have come out of her. She is now the synagogue of Satan." Present Truth. April, 1850.
Hence they say that the revivals and conversions in the churches are largely a deception, the work of the devil, not of God. Mrs. White says of them: "The converts are not renewed in heart or changed in character." "They will exult that God is working marvelously for them, when the work is that of another spirit. Under a religious guise, Satan will spread his influence over the land. HE HOPES TO DECEIVE MANY BY LEADING THEM TO THINK THAT GOD IS STILL WITH THE CHURCHES." Great Controversy, page 294, 296. On this the Review and Herald, May 3, 1887, says: "we are aware that to assume that this revival work, so unquestionably accepted by all the churches, is not genuine, will cause the hands of Christendom to be raised in holy horror.... If He [God] is with us, He has not been with the popular churches in any marked manner since they rejected the Advent message of 1843-4, and they are congratulating themselves over delusive appearances, and a prosperity which has no existence in fact. The hand of God cannot direct two movements so antagonistic in nature."
Believing this, they eagerly watch for evidence to prove it and shut their eyes to any facts against it. So they rejoice at any unfavorable thing they can hear against ministers, churches, or members. They report it, repeat it, publish it, magnify it, and live on it. To weaken, divide, or break up a church, is their delight. They heartily join with worldlings, infidels and atheists in their opposition to churches, and thus strengthen their unbelief and help them to perdition. They have gathered up all the most unfavorable things possible to find against the churches and put it in a book occupying thirty pages, and this they hand out for all to read. It is sad to see honest men devoting their lives to such highly censurable work, which must please Satan well.
Seventh-day Adventists dwell much on how easy it is to be deceived, to be led by Satan, when we think it is the Lord - to believe a lie for the truth. It is amusing to see how innocently they apply this to all others, and never dream that is has any application to themselves! What, THEY deceived? THEY misled? Impossible! They KNOW they are right. Exactly, and that is just the way all feel, whether they be Mormons, Shakers, Catholics, or what not. The Adventists themselves are an illustration of the ease with which people are misled.
Tent Meetings. Largely they use tents to enter new fields. Being a novelty, they attract attention. At first they present subjects which will offend no one till they gain the confidence of the people. Gradually they introduce their peculiar dogmas, then come out more boldly, till at length they denounce all other churches as Babylon, and their pastors as hirelings and deceivers. They say these pastors cannot defend their doctrines; dare not try. They offer rewards to any who will prove so and so; boast how they have scared this one, defeated that one, and silenced another. If in sermons the least reference is made to them, they call it persecution, give out a review, and do everything to provoke controversy. When the resident pastors are compelled to defend themselves, the Adventists claim to be greatly abused.
If a doctor, lawyer, teacher, or business man should enter a town and denounce all others of his profession as quacks, fools, or deceivers, how would he be treated? All would combine against him as a common enemy.
This is the way the pastors and churches meet the attacks of the Adventists, because compelled to. Like Ishmael of old, the hand of the Adventist is against every man, and hence every man's hand is against them. Gen 16:12. It is useless for them to deny this, for all know it to be true. They all do it. I was taught that way and followed it, and taught others to do the same.
Camp meeting. Adventists hold many camp-meetings yearly. Here their ablest speakers preach their doctrines to thousands, and distribute their literature widely. They hire the papers to print lengthy flattering reports of their meetings, which they write themselves. Their reporters are trained for this special work. They gain wide attention, and impress many in this way.
Bible Readings. Hundreds of their men, women, and even young girls, are trained with printed lessons which they learn by heart, to go from house to house and give Bible readings. At first they conceal their real object and name, till they get a foothold. Then they cautiously introduce their tenets, work against pastors and churches, and lead many away.
Book-selling. Hundreds also are employed to canvass for their doctrinal books. The real nature of the book is studiously concealed, and the subscriber is deceived into buying a radical Advent book.
Distribution of Tracts. In every possible way, publicly, privately, from tent or church, by book-agents, colporteurs, Bible-readers, or private individuals, in depots, on boats, in stores, or families, through the mails, by sale, loan or gift, their tracts are persistently crowded everywhere.
Missions. They have Missions in many of the large cities and in foreign lands; but they are largely proselyting agencies. They do little among the heathen, or for the destitute and fallen, but go into the best families to which they can gain access, and gather the converts whom other missionaries have made. Thus Mrs. White instructs them: "Mistakes have been made in not seeking to reach ministers and the higher classes with the truth.... Educate men and women to labor for these higher classes both here and there and in other countries." Testimony No. 33, pages 108, 109. Jesus sent his disciples into the highways and hedges for the poor, lame and blind, for publicans, harlots and sinners; but Mrs. White does not relish that kind. She wants them from "the ministers and higher classes," "the whole who need no physician," those who can bring talent and money into the cause.
Where They Work. Adventists have the best success in new fields, where they are least known. Hence the western States is where they are most numerous. In New England, where they started, they have had to struggle hard to hold their own. In some of the older fields they have lost in numbers, in others the gain is very small. In hundreds of places where they were fair sized, active churches in the past, now no church at all, or a straggling, discouraged handful. Battle Creek is a fair illustration. This was their headquarters for forty years. Once there were 2,000 Sabbath keepers here, all united. Now there are less than 1,000, divided into four opposing parties, their influence entirely gone. The same is true elsewhere. About all the converts they make are at the outset. After a few years' acquaintance, they have no influence and few or none join them. Their churches grow smaller, generally, till they are unnoticed. The average membership of their churches is 29 - exceedingly small; how different from the evangelical churches! The longer these are in a town the stronger they grow, and the more influence they have generally. But Adventism does not wear.
People are led into Adventism from lack of information. Hence, when Adventism enters a town the people should be told plainly what it is, what its effects are, and wherein it is unscriptural. Quite generally pastors make a mistake in letting it alone for weeks, till it has gained a foothold. I always noticed that where the pastors united and worked against us on the start, we could do but little. So I would advise churches and pastors to take right hold of the matter earnestly as soon as people are interested in it. Preach on it; visit those who are being led away; hold Bible-readings; furnish them with proper books and tracts. Sit down patiently and answer arguments. Visit them again and again. Adventists will work a whole year, will go a hundred times, will give them scores of tracts to proselyte one person. If we would work a tenth as hard, scarcely one would be led away. People love to be noticed. The very attention they receive from the Adventists often wins them more than their arguments.
Adventism is founded on time, and time will kill it. It began by setting a definite time, 1844, for the end of the world, and failed. Now they hold that it must come in this generation beginning in 1844. This is only another way of time setting. In time all this will fail and overthrow their system. Then will come doubt, discouragement, divisions, apostasies, infidelity, and ruin to souls. This end is inevitable. The wider their influence now, the more terrible the disaster then. These wild, enthusiastic, fanatical moves which end in failure are the delight of Satan, as they bring disgrace upon the cause of Christ and end in infidelity. That such will be the end of Adventism I have not a doubt.
The men whom God has chosen to lead out in the great religious movements of the past have, with few exceptions, been men of high education, refinement, and great talents. Moses, the founder of Judaism, "was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds." Acts 7:22. Nehemiah, who restored Jerusalem after the captivity, was cup-bearer to the king. Neh 2. So Daniel, the great prophet, had "knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom." Dan 1:17. He was prime minister of a mighty empire for many years. Paul was so renowned for his learning, that the king said to him: "Much learning doth make thee mad." Acts 26:24. He did for Christianity ten times more than all the other apostles together. It is to him, and not to the other apostles, that the Gentile world is indebted for Christianity. Then the twelve, though uneducated, had the advantage over all other reformers, that they were taught directly by the Son of God, and could work miracles.
St. Augustine, A.D. 353-430, the father of Christian theology, to whom the church owes almost as much as to Paul, was highly educated. As is well known, Luther was a thorough scholar, educated in the best schools of his day, and filled a professor's chair in a university. So Calvin and Melanchton were both profound scholars, occupying professor's chairs in halls of learning. Zwingle, the great Swiss reformer, was celebrated for his learning and scholarship. Wiclif [sp], the "Morning Star of the Reformation," was a graduate of Oxford, England, and a doctor of divinity. Cranmer, the great English reformer, was a graduate, a doctor of divinity, archbishop, and regent of the kingdom. Wesley, the father of Methodism, was a graduate of Oxford, a man of vast reading, the author or editor of commentaries, grammars, dictionaries, etc. It is a false idea that God generally uses ignorant men as leaders in reform, as the above great names will show.
Now look at the founders of our heretical sects. Joanna Southcott was wholly illiterate, a mere washer-woman. Ann Lee, the foundress of the Shakers, received no education, worked in a cotton factory, and was cook in a hospital. Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, received no education, and Brigham Young very little. Not one of these persons were of influence in the world, outside of their own deluded followers.
How is it with the leaders of Adventism? Wm. Miller, the founder, was reared in the backwoods, in poverty, and received only the poor advantages of a common district school. Except some general reading, this was the extent of his education.
Elder White, the leader of the Seventh-day Adventists' party, only secured sufficient education to teach a common district school. He was no student of books. In all my travels with him, I seldom saw him read half an hour in any book. Of the languages or the sciences he knew nothing, and little even of common history. Mrs. White received no school education, except a few weeks when a child. She, like Joanna Southcott, Ann Lee, and Joseph Smith, was wholly illiterate, not knowing the simplest rules of grammar. Not one of the leading men in that work ever graduated from college or university, and many are illiterate as Mrs. White herself. Elder J.N. Andrews, Elder Smith, and one or two more, by diligent study and reading out of school, became well informed men in their line. After Elder White came Elders Butler and Haskell as leaders, neither of them educated men, nor of half the natural talent of Elder White. The present leaders are small men also. Such men are poorly prepared to lead out in a great reformation in this educated age. Not a man among them has now, or ever had, a particle of influence in the world, or any office or responsible position in state or nation. How different from the great reformers of the past, who often had extensive influence for good, not only with the masses, but with the great men and kings of earth. Hence, from whatsoever side we view Adventism, it has none of the marks of a genuine reformation sent of God to bless the world.
Elder A.A. Phelps, for years editor of a First-day Adventist paper says: "I watched and waited, and worked, with patience, meakness and loyalty, in hearty co-operation, and with an earnest desire to see such unity, enterprise, breadth and moral power, as ought to characterize a scriptural and heaven-inspired movement. How slowly and reluctantly I yielded to the conviction - forced by sad facts and illustrations that I have not even dared to detail - that I was only throwing away my life in stemming such waves of discord, indolence, looseness, narrowness, dogmatism and spiritual death as I could not overcome."
Reader, if you are still outside of this spiritual Babylon, take warning from those who have been through the mill, and stay out.
Later, 1914. Already strong men among them admit that, (1) Mrs. White had made many mistakes in her inspired (?) writing; (2) Now contradicts what she once wrote; (3) Has copied from many other authors what she claims as revelations from God; (4) Has often been influenced by others to write what they wanted to help their projects. Time has proved this so clearly that it can no longer be denied. Hence her revelations are steadily losing influence with their able men. She is now eighty-seven years old and is reported as having largely lost her mind. The laity, specially in foreign lands, being ignorant of all these facts, still regard her as the voice of God to them.