Hope After Disappointment: an Impression of the late-19th Century Advent Christian Message

Hope After Disappointment: an Impression of the late-19th Century Advent Christian Message

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Throughout the 1830s and early 1840s, a frenetic movement raged across the American landscape spawned by William Miller’s conclusions regarding the time and manner of Christ’s return. His study of the Bible led him to believe in the personal return of Christ in 1843, a belief that quickly won wide approbation among those who would come to make up the Second-Advent/Millerite movement. Despite the earnest expectation of these Millerites, Christ was not to appear in 1843, nor was he to appear in the eagerly embraced subsequent year of 1844. The accumulation of these failed expectations became known as “The Great Disappointment.” The Second Advent movement was in ruins.

Despite this, the Second Advent movement had its survivors. These would go on to form a variety of denominational groups, including the Evangelical Adventists, Advent Christians, and Seventh-Day Adventists. In the wake of the Great Disappointment, each of these groups came together to continue the work of the Second Advent movement according to their own distinct persuasions. Here, we seek to understand the content of the Second Advent message proclaimed by those of the Advent Christian persuasion. Particularly, we seek to understand the shape of that message in the late 19th century. This time period produced a vast and diverse quantity of Advent Christian literature, making it difficult to offer a comprehensive account within the space of this article. In light of this, the sources selected for this study are representative in nature, the intent being to form an impression of the Advent Christian message across these years rather than an airtight account impenetrable to exceptions. Hence, this study will examine a number of books written between 1868 and 1895 in an effort to identify the commonly held beliefs of this period. Each relevant source will be reviewed categorically before culminating in a summative conclusion.

 

The Nature of Man, Punishment, and Salvation

While beginning this study with an examination of the Advent Christian view of the nature of man, punishment, and salvation may appear to be a peculiar place to start, we must start here because of this peculiarity. Advent Christian adherence to conditionalism is what distinguished Advent Christians from other mainstream Adventists and is what eventually led to their unique denominational existence. While elements of their Second-Advent message (henceforth Advent Christian message) were left untouched by conditionalism, a considerable portion of that message was “conditioned” in one or way or another by conditionalist assumptions. As will also be the case in subsequent sections, we now look to various Advent Christian authors to achieve an impression of Advent Christian belief.

“‘Adventism.’ What Is It?” William Sheldon, 1868

 Early on in William Sheldon’s work, he makes clear that he believes that the implications of conditionalist belief buttress the Second Advent. Sheldon writes, “When we consider the fact that death merely shuts the saints up in this dark prison, instead of transporting them to glory, the necessity of a resurrection is made still more apparent.”[1]However, the reverse is true as well when he considers the matter of rewards: “Is not the Soul or Spirit to be rewarded before the body? Certainly not, unless it is rewarded before the judgment, and that would be a curious notion- one reward for the soul before the judgment, and another reward for the body after the judgment!!”[2] He then writes, “This theology has no existence in the Book of God, and is utterly subversive of the doctrine of a future judgment-day, so clearly taught in the Bible.”[3]In a similar manner, after making his case that the early Church adhered to conditionalism, he writes, “Protestants received the doctrine of the immortality of the soul from the Papists, and the Papists received it from the Pagans. This doctrine makes of none effect the resurrection, and makes the future judgment unimportant.”[4]

Later commenting on punishment, he writes, "If the sinner will not accept the offers of salvation, God will punish him for his sins, and he will cease to live- and God will have an universe cleansed from sin and sinners! We have no right to threaten the sinner with more than God has threatened him.”[5]It is important to note here that Sheldon believes that this punishment is the consequence of rejecting Christ’s offer of salvation in the period he regards as the second “probation”, the first probation being in the garden of Eden, wherein Adam and Eve’s failure meant death for us all.[6]The point of this is that humans are judged by their personal “holiness” under this second probation. [7]This opinion will be seen in subsequent authors.

“True Theology” John A. Cargile, 1888 (first published 1887)

Famous Advent Christian evangelist of the South, John Cargile states his views quite plainly, “We have said that they have no proof for the doctrine of dying and going to heaven. And we affirm that the idea of a home in heaven for children of Adam is directly contrary to the teachings of the Bible.”[6]He reasons that this is impossible because, “Adam evidently became a dying man by sin. The stream can not rise higher than the fountain from whence it flows. A mortal, dying man could not beget a race of immortal, deathless children.”[9]Cargile so fervently despises notions of natural immortality that he claims it is the Pharisaic leaven of which Jesus warned his disciples.[10]Moreover, he attributes belief in natural immortality to the emergence of false religions.[11]He thus insists, 

Purge out the old leaven, and then folks will begin in earnest to look for the second coming of Christ, to raise the dead, to judge and restore the world, to reward the righteous, to punish the wicked, to establish his kingdom on the earth, and to reign forever on his father David's throne on Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously! p.220

Returning to the theme of probation that Sheldon touches upon, we discover an even clearer presentation of this view by Cargile. He writes,

True, Bible universalism brings all men out of the graves- out of the Adamic death, and no more. Atonement by the death of Christ is literal and universal; and quite a different thing from redemption by, or through the blood of Christ; which is that specialspiritual and eternal salvation.[12]

It is apparent that splitting atonement in this way is meant to serve as an explanation for why the wicked are resurrected to only then be destroyed. Cargile denies original sin and views Adamic death as an unwelcome inheritance. But with Christ, "We are now on probation for our own sins. Each one who rejects Christ, and dies the Adamic death in sin, that is, dies unconverted; then, ‘For his own iniquity that he hath done shall he die.’”[13]Again he writes, “The incorrigible sinners will die the second death for their own sins; because they rejected Christ, whose ‘blood cleanseth from all sin.’”[14]This is an important component for the rationality of the entire theological construct Cargile is putting forward. 

“Our Hope or Why Are We Adventists?” E.A. Stockman, 1898 (first published 1884)

E.A. Stockman is standard in his conditionalist opinions. He writes, “That men are actually dead and buried in one world, and really and essentially alive and active in another world at the same time, is a startling absurdity. To say that dead men are living men, is to destroy the meaning of language.”[15] Like Sheldon and Cargile, Stockman maintains a probationary understanding of human responsibility. Presenting one of the clearest statements among these texts, he writes, 

But in the primal transgression the progeny of the united head of the race had no voice, shared no responsibility. And because the offspring of the unfaithful pair were involved in a terrible calamity for which they were in no way at fault, the gracious God, in his infinite and sovereign goodness, provided a second royal opportunity in the gift, person and work of Christ, the second Adam. The atonement came in, covering the resultsof that Adamic failure in so far as to assure deliverance from the Adamic death penalty, by resurrection from the dead, to be precededby a probationary period co-extensive with human life; thus constituting all the race free and responsible subjects of God's moral government , each for himself, with future destiny, whether of eternal life or second and eternal death, set before them as a question of personal choice.[16]

He continues on not much later, 

Nor can the Adamic death be the proper and inclusive punishment for probationary sinning, because the righteous and the wicked are alike subject to that calamity; and further, because all are provided- in the redemptive economy- with certain and unconditional deliverance from the original death penalty by resurrection.[17]

Combined with this clarification, this probationary understanding cuts off at the pass any who would purport that the wicked receive their punishment in their natural death and are not resurrected. As with Cargile, this rationality serves towards maintaining the coherence of the Advent Christian message as a whole. 

“The Two Destinies” G.L. Young, 1895

G.L. Young’s book is primarily occupied with making the case for conditionalism. In a straight forward statement, he writes, “According to the teaching of the word of God, the righteous are to be made immortal at the time of the resurrection of the dead, and shall then enter upon a happy and glorious existence that shall never end.  But with the wicked it is not so. They will not live forever. The gracious boon of Everlasting Life is not to be given them.”[18]

Young is convinced that conditionalism is the key to setting a person upon the path to Christ. He writes,

If every person who isn't a Christian could be led to see the truth of this matter, that man is not immortal of himself, that he is not possessed of an always consciously-existing spirit or soul, but that man is wholly mortal and must die as really as anything else dies, it might set them thinking.[19]

This perception that conditionalist belief is of consequential importance highlights the commanding position conditionalism appears to hold in piecing together the Advent Christian message. As with Sheldon, Cargile, and Stockman, Young holds to a dual-probationary period understanding of human responsibility.[20] Like Stockman, he rationalizes this position when he writes, 

We are taught: ‘The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father.’ But every one shall die for his own iniquity.’ While ‘the wages of sin is death,’ and ‘the soul that sinneth, it shall die,’ it is not for another’s,but for his own sin. ‘For hisiniquity that he hath done shall he die.’ How then shall the Scripture be fulfilled? There is but one way, that is by a resurrection of the dead.[21]

This allows for the Advent Christian message to go forward while avoiding any implication that the first death is the end. As Young writes, “We do not believe, ‘as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,’ death to be the last of man. Death is not an eternal sleep.”[22]

The Return of Christ

While conditionalism was a commanding component of the Advent Christian message, there continued to be a significant degree of that message that bore the marks of Millerism. In what follows, we survey the opinions of a variety of Advent Christian authors in the areas of prophetic/apocalyptic interpretation, date-setting, and the nature and necessity of Christ’s return. 

 “‘Adventism.’ What Is It?” William Sheldon, 1868

Sheldon is utterly convinced of the central importance of Christ’s Second Advent. Early in his book he offers this sweeping statement: 

What is Adventism? It is simply the theory of the second advent of Christ, as the "hub" in the "wheel" of Bible theology, together with its spokes, fellies and tire- all other truths depending on this. Blot out the second coming of Christ, and the resurrection is obliterated, the judgment day is repudiated, and the restitution is set aside, for not until Christ comes are the dead to be raised, or is the judgment to arrive, or the restitution to dawn.[23]

For Sheldon then, Adventism is first and foremost defined by the belief in the central importance of Christ’s return, the significance of which is defined by the nature of his return. On it rests the resurrection of the dead, the “restitution” of the created order, and in fact judgment itself. Sheldon believes that there can be no judgment without Christ’s return, a conviction that he believes is borne out by Scripture but which is also concomitant with conditionalist belief and the rejection of Adamic death as the punishment for personal sin.[24]

Considering our anticipation of Christi’s return, he writes, “Our hearts should glow with a fervent desire to compare the prophetic record with historic facts: for while prophecy tells what shall be, history tells what has been.Should we not be willing to learn what God has taken so much pains to teach us?”[25]This historicist approach is a continuation of the Millerite tradition and thus Sheldon examines Daniel’s prophecies and brings them into comparison with historical events, the Papacy playing a significant role as the antichrist power, an assignment typical for all of these writers. Calculating the prophetic years, he writes, “The 6,000 years spanning the time from Paradise to Paradise restored, will soon end. We count…[figures] thus ending the 6,000 years in 1875.”[26] Sheldon seems to believe that Christ will return in 1875 and yet he does not make much of this. In fact, later he writes, 

We make no pretentions to knowing either the day or the hour of this great event; but how often this text is quoted to prove we are not to know when it is near, overlooking the fact that Christ, in this same discourse, bids us "know that it is near," after witnessing specified events, which have already occurred. To conclude that we cannot “know that it is near,” just before the end, is to repudiate the testimony of Christ himself.[27]

On the one hand, it appears as though Sheldon has admitted that one cannot know the time of Christ’s return, while on the other he claims that one can “know that it is near.” I believe that Sheldon is being literalistic when he says that we are unable to know “the day or the hour”; he believes that suggesting that Christ will return in the year of 1875 does not violate that standard. Thus, Sheldon continues much in the way of the Millerites and is only a bit more timid in his conclusions.

“True Theology” John A. Cargile, 1888 (first published 1887)

Like Sheldon, Cargile believes that the return of Christ is of central importance: “The second personal coming of Christ is the all-important pivot upon which turns all our hope. It is the grand central truth of the gospel- the polar star around which all other truths revolve. Without this truth, all the rest would be a failure.”[28] He believes that Christ’s return is literal and is convinced that the importance of this has been lost because of belief in natural immortality. Like Young, he refers to it as leaven and writes, “As a result of the leaven of the papacy, hidden in the meal, men teach that the coming of Christ is to be invisible and spiritual.”[29]

Along with expecting a literal return, Cargile believes that Christ’s Bride can expect to be given notice of her Bride-groom’s near return. He asks, “Can we know approximately anything about the time of this great and important event?”[25] and answers, “She certainly will know something of the wedding-time, or she will not be ready.”[26]True to a historicist approach and a literal manner of interpretation, Cargile points to the New England Dark Day of 1780 and the star shower of 1833 as recent signs of Christ’s near approach. Sheldon, Cargile, Stockman, and D.T. Taylor all assign significance to these events.

Cargile is not unaware of the perils of calculating Christ’s return. His cognizance is certainly suggested by his inclusion of the word, “approximately”. Later, he makes his recognition clear:

The many mistakes made by good, honest, and well meaning brethren on the “time” question, have been the result of starting the line at the wrong place…We have read several time arguments which we could not refute. But their appointed time passed, and the world still moves along as of yore, which proves that their beginning-stake was wrong. Still, time is taught in the Bible. God put it there for a purpose. It is for those who are more familiar with history and chronological data to delve into this wonderful mine of wisdom, and bring its rich treasures of information to the surface for the blessing and warning of their weaker brethren and the world.[32]

It is clear that Cargile does not believe date-setting is a problematic endeavor. To the contrary, it is a warranted endeavor since “time is taught in the Bible” and “God put it there for a purpose.” It is simply a matter of getting the “beginning-stake” right. Cargile does not believe that he has the historical expertise to make such a calculation, so he puts forward an anonymous account that calculates a return in 1889, only two years removed from the 1887 1st edition of this book. If the calculation should prove incorrect, he believes, “Such a disappointment will only reveal to honest Bible students the fact that our dear brother was mistaken as to the correct point of beginning the prophetic line. We shall still work and wait, firmly believing that ‘at the time appointed the end shall be.’”[33]

 “Our Hope or Why Are We Adventists?” E.A. Stockman, 1898 (first published 1884)

 Stockman believes much of the same regarding the central importance of Christ’s second advent. At one point putting it negatively, he writes, “Misconception of the doctrine of the Second Advent of Christ is likely to lead to false views of the entire redemptive economy.”[34] He finds support in the New Testament for putting this message of Christ’s return front and center: “When sinners are urged to repent, the coming of the Lord and what it implies is made the chief motive.”[35]

As with other writers, he is against any figurative or preterist interpretations of Christ’s return.[36] Stockman believes, “His ‘coming’ will be personal, literal, visible.”[37] With Stockman we also see the continued belief that the Bible intends to reveal the time of Christ’s return:

Incontrovertibly, God's purpose in giving these revelations...was that the people of God should understand the successive order of the events described, and the time, or at least the approximate time of their occurrence; for to what purpose could the revelation, or unveiling be if the wonderful events delineated were not to be understood after they were revealed any more than before?[38]

Stockman does not propose a time for Christ’s return, but he does seem to give license to such practice by saying that “at least the approximate time” should be able to be discovered for prophetic events. This seems to be reinforced when he later writes, “Whoever will give careful heed to prophecy may know where in the world's career we are, and what events are next to be expected.”[39]

Stockman believes that “the true church will be fully apprised- during the ‘time of the end’- of the imminence of her Lord's return.”[40] This belief takes on an interesting visage when he later writes,

These texts teach that, though the Lord will come unexpectedly to the world at large, there will be a people waiting and watching for his return. Is the reader aware that at this moment there are scores of thousands of persons, scattered through every civilization of the globe, including many of the best Bible students in the world, both laymen and ministers, who are now looking with solemn interest for the immediate coming of Christ? Their expectations are based upon the fulfillment of prophecy and the signs of the time. We regard this as a most significant evidence that the Lord is near. The Holy Spirit would not awaken in the heart of the bride such ardent expectations of the bridegroom's coming if it were not true.[41]

Stockman seems to be implying that Adventists at large are the “true church” because they are watching and apparently aware of the signs of the times. Moreover, the existence of such Adventists is a sign of the times as well! Stockman is so convinced that he is apparently unafraid of seemingly applying circular logic. 

“The Great Consummation” D.T. Taylor, 1906 (first published 1891)

D.T. Taylor’s work primarily takes up an effort to identify signs of the time in light of prophetic revelation. He writes, “Can all the foretold events be put in chronological order as now known from history? Certainly we can approximate something of the kind.”[42] While he does not make a numeric calculation to produce a year for the return of Christ, his historicist approach does lead him to conclude that, “We are now in the season after the tribulation. No other equal to it shall ever come on Christ's elect. "Nor ever shall be," saith Jesus.”[43] The implication is that Christ’s return is imminent. The rest of his book is taken up with identifying signs that show this to be the case.

Taylor accepts as signs of the times a wide array of celestial and earthly events- even if such events may not be universally observable. Alluding to the 1780 New England Dark Day, he writes,

Of what use to exhibit the crucifixion darkness to the people of Central Asia? Of what significance could a darkened sun be to the wild tribes of Central Africa? The first occurred at a vast center where it was needed to show the divine displeasure, - the second occurred in 1780-90 over the civilized centers of the world. Could any such obscuration, happening where the Church could procure no authentic account, be invested with authority or clothed with significance? The "signs" of his coming must be open, well known, visible to Christendom, and impressive if not mysterious.[44]

This understanding gives Taylor license to tap into a number of natural events as signs of prophetic fulfillment, even in one case going so far as to suggest some meaning in the correlation between sunspots and tornadoes and their general increase.[45]

Taylor is thoroughly consumed by scientific inspection and its meaning for prophecy. He writes, “Shall we pass by these “groans of nature?” Do they not speak to man?[...]And why should Christians contemplate such phenomena as we are presenting in the light of science and history, and leave out their still more interesting prophetical aspect and significance?”[46] While fascinated by science, he does not believe that all of her practitioners possess a correct understanding: “The dream of unbelieving and agnostic science that a very remote end can only be attained by the slow processes of nature in her moods of change, will prove a fatal snare. Christ comes again ‘suddenly.’”[47] However, he is not suggesting the sudden return of Christ is unscientific. To the contrary, he believes it is immensely scientific, quoting Dr. L.T. Townsend who says, “This great law of sudden transmutation is profoundly scientific, and reaches to all material existence.”[48]

Later he writes, “Some scientists are conservative and prim; many are agnostic or skeptical. Nevertheless all are uneasy…Generally this class accord ‘superstition’ to those who…wait the return of the Bridegroom-King. But in view of all the strange and solemn utterances of our day, we candidly ask, ‘Are the Adventists the only alarmists?’”[49] Clearly, Taylor had seized upon the scientific winds of his day to bring added legitimacy to the Adventist alarm. Yet the nature of this alarm does not bring with it the expectation of converting the world.

Again, as of old the very children cry, The King cometh! Missionary enterprise planning and pushing its magnificent operations on more enlightened grounds, abandons the old fallacious cry, Let us convert the world- for it knows the vile world will notbe converted,- and toiling to finish the work ere the dawn of A.D. 1900, exclaims, We must "warn all men."This is indeed apostolic. On the wings of steam and electricity the last messageis flying, and in the opinion of the foremost missionaries and best informed workers the warning can and will be finished by or before 1900. Then cometh the end. Even now there is scarcely either a nation, a kingdom, a dynasty, a civilized centre, a city, or an island on the globe, but what has heard of the cross and the crown of our coming King.[50]

From this it appears that Taylor believes that the ultimate purpose of sounding the alarm to all of the world is not to convert it but to prompt the return of Christ by fulfilling this prophetic expectation. This is reinforced when he writes shortly after, “When once this specific witnessing for Christ, and against the usurping nationalities (now in a spasm of military madness) is accomplished, then shall the end come.[51] Interestingly, he seems to hint that Christ will return by the year 1900, not on the basis of a prophetic calculation, but based on the expected reach of missionary endeavours. This seems to mark a departure from past Advent Christian practice, even while Taylor maintains much of the same content. 

The New Heavens and New Earth

While the ink spilled on conditionalism proper and the time and manner of Christ’s return takes up much space in Advent Christian writing, both are ultimately working towards the realization of the new heavens and new earth. The nature of the coming kingdom fills out Advent Christian hope, gives happy answer to the conditionalist assessment of the nature of man, and ties together the redemptive structure as a whole. We now survey these same authors for their opinions in this regard.

“‘Adventism.’ What Is It?” William Sheldon, 1868

Besides Christ coming to render judgment, Sheldon believes that “He is coming to set up his kingdom on earth.”[52] As for what he means by this, Sheldon is quite clear: (1) “What is the nature of the kingdom? Our negative answer is, It is not spiritual.[53](2) “To the question, what is the nature of the kingdom? we reply affirmatively,It is literal.”[54](3)“The theory which ignores the future kingdom of Messiah on earth, or seeks to substitute a sky-kingdom in its stead, is subversive of the Divine plan.”[55]Sheldon expects an earthly kingdom, not simply because of some underlying conditionalist presuppositions, but primarily because it accords with God’s revelation of the “Divine plan”. 

The following draws together many of the themes that come together to produce this expectation of an earthly kingdom:

And as both Abraham and his spiritual seed will then be immortal, the promised land must undergo a corresponding change- not the mere land of Canaan, but “THE WORLD;”…And as the result of this change, we have what Isaiah, Peter, and John style the new heavens and new earth, or earth made new by a "restitution;" so that the "kingdom prepared from the foundation of the world, " though now dilapidated, shall in its renovated state become the endless home of the entire family of "those who are of faith"- and thus shall the righteous "be blessed with faithful Abraham," or thus shall the promise made to Abraham and his seed be fulfilled, beyond the existence of mortality, in a realm of endless felicity- the land of promise- the world to come.[56]

Sheldon is alluding here to a whole vision of the redemptive narrative that is consummated in the new heavens and new earth. First, we note his use of the word “restitution”. This term is used frequently among these writers and it points to their belief that God’s Edenic creation, the “kingdom prepared from the foundation of the world”, indicates that God’s creative purpose was a physical creation. This purpose was marred by sin, but the return of Christ and the introduction of the news heavens and new earth represent the restitution of that divine purpose. However, besides representing the restitution of God’s purposes, the new heavens and new earth represent God’s fidelity to the promises made to Abraham and his seed to give them a land in which to dwell. Sheldon contends that the Canaanite realization of that promise did not include Abraham, but only his seed in the flesh, and thus the promise made to him in Genesis 13:14-17 awaits fulfillment at Christ’s second coming when Abraham will be raised to dwell on the new earth.[57]He goes on to include the promises made to David and the establishment of his throne as another piece in this redemptive narrative.[58]

As for what the creation of the new heavens and new earth will entail, Sheldon writes, “Thus earth and the surrounding atmospheric heavens are not only to "perish," but they are also to be ‘changed,’ instead of being annihilated; and in their changed condition, after the great conflagration, they are styled the ‘new heavens and new earth.’”[59] Thus while the earth will be a new earth, it will not be a numerically different earth; it will be the same earth changed.  He believes this change will occur by a “sea of fire” that is “now in the bowels of the earth”, all while the saints have been taken up to meet Jesus in the New Jerusalem before it descends.[60]

“True Theology” John A. Cargile, 1888 (first published 1887)

Sharing Sheldon’s use of “restitution”, Cargile writes in light of the Fall, “Will God's plan be forever a failure? We answer, NO! There is to be a glorious "restitution."[61] Further, he writes, “Now earth is certainly to be renovated, purified, and made free from the curse; and so it will again be fit for an eternal home. Therefore, God's aim and purpose in creation will ultimately be a grand success. Earth will be inhabited by the redeemed saints forever.”[62]It is apparent that Cargile believes that without a physical restitution God’s divine plan would be marked by failure, an unacceptable result. Like Sheldon, he believes such restitution will be commenced by fire and that as for the earth, “It is the same material all the while, only changed from the state or condition in which it was before.”[63]

Cargile wants to assure the reader that the kingdom will only be present when Christ returns. He defies any notion that the kingdom exists in the heart of the believer.[64] Similarly he writes, “Now we unhesitatingly declare, that the kingdom spoken of in the text is not the church, and that the church is not the kingdom.”[65] Among many proofs to the contrary, he writes, “We find that thieves, the covetous, drunkards, extortioners, revilers, and a host of other characters, have no inheritance in the kingdom of God. 1 Cor. 6: 8-10. We find them in all the churches.”[66] These understandings of the kingdom diminish the need for Christ’s return and thus Cargile counters them to maintain the force of the Advent Christian message.

“Our Hope or Why Are We Adventists?” E.A. Stockman, 1898 (first published 1884)
In his commentary on the new heavens and new earth, Stockman provides an example of the interwoven nature of the promises to Abraham and the restitution. In reference to the Abrahamic promise of land, he asks and answers, “When will it be accomplished? We answer, in the ‘Restitution.’”[67] Regarding the restitution, his understanding bears a sense of “going back.” He writes, “But Paradise restored will bring back the primeval conditions, and ransomed and restored man will take rank again in the relations of the intelligent universe.”[68] Elsewhere, he writes in bold, “God's primal purpose will be re-enthroned.”[69]

This envisioned restitution has no space for evil. 

The new earth is promised to the saints- the "kingdom under the whole heavens"- wherein the just shall dwell and reign with Christ "forever and ever." Where will Satan and the wicked reign?- reign in rebellion and blasphemy? Where? We bend our ears to the Sacred Volume, but no answer comes. The holy Word is silent- silent because in the “restitution” no spot, in all the realm of God, will be abandoned to the reign of evil and supremacy of corruption. No howling pandemonium, hideous with the groans of tortured sinners and the blasphemous imprecations of chained demons, will be allowed to break the harmony and peace of the new creation.[70]

Here were see that conditionalist conviction and the vision of restitution meet in the destruction of the wicked. There is no place for evil in the new heavens and new earth. “This is Paradise restored; the promised new creation…This is God's own picture of the HOME of the saints, and of the saints AT HOME.”[71]

“The Great Consummation” D.T. Taylor, 1906 (first published 1891)

Taylor has a slightly different take than Cargile on the presence of the kingdom. He writes,

Parts of the kingdom are here; the King is yet in heaven. The time of preparation runs through this age: In the next age, the reign comes, it appears, it is set up. Like the plant the kingdom has it underground and above ground life; like the child it has its embryotic and full birth state. Now the kingdom is in embryo. The plant is growing, but we wait for it to come up into the sunlight. It is coming.[72]

Thus rather than saying nothing of the kingdom is present today, Taylor believes it has a presence underneath the surface today. This is not for our satisfaction but for our anticipation to see that kingdom come to the surface. 

In response to the scientists who have no such hope, “who utter but gloomy forbodings of coming ill, and dolefully bring no hope for a cold sun or a dead earth,” he writes, “We share no such gloomy fears. The earth, and air, and water shall burn, but all shall be restored, and a new or renewed heaven and earth appear…Renovation of the ‘thing’ he has made, and which sin and evil have marred, is the purpose and order of the Creator.”[73] Taylor’s engagement from this scientific angle emphasizes the materiality of his understandingg of the new heavens and new earth; as he puts it,  “…the solar system is unending.”[74]

“The Two Destinies” G.L. Young, 1895

As a final voice on this matter, Young writes,

Men unwisely allow themselves to pre-judge materialism from what they see of the fallen material creation, now under the curse. But when God puts his finishing touch upon His material saints at their resurrection, and upon the dilapidated earth at its renovation, material things will be infinitely improved. The gospel proposes this elevation. But even after the elevation, it will be a material world renewed, inhabited by material saints, immortalized and glorified. Bible materialism promises a glorious improvement in the future of our material world and its material occupants, by a glorious restitution of all things which God hath spoken.[75]

This makes utterly clear the materialistic conception of the new heavens and new earth shared among Advent Christians and the nature of the “restitution”. 

Summative Conclusion

The opinions expressed by these Advent Christians authors have shared enough in common to suggest an impression of the late 19th century Advent Christian message. Broadly speaking, their message was as follows:  

Man is mortal by nature because of Adam’s sin and apart from God’s resurrecting work he cannot live. The good news is that Christ has conquered death by his own resurrection and will bring all of the dead back to life at the day of his return. However, Christ’s return also represents the day of our judgment. If you have not been washed in Christ’s blood for your personal sins before he returns, you will be subject to the second death and be destroyed in the lake of fire. But for those who have been washed in the blood, the new heavens and new earth await you. 

The old earth will be cleansed with fire and the new earth in which we dwell will be the restitution of God’s good creation- it will be a return to his divine intent. We will not be spirits, but have physical bodies in a physical world living under the benevolent rule of the bodily present King Jesus. This restitution signifies the fulfillment of the promises made to Abraham that he and his seed would dwell in the land and the promise to David that his son would forever reign on the throne. 

The Bride of Christ must keep watch for the return of her Bridegroom. While the world will be surprised by Christ’s return, God will give the Church notice of Christ’s soon return. When we look to Scripture, to history, and to the events occurring around us, we can clearly see that Christ’s return is imminent. The signs have been fulfilled, everything has happened but Christ’s return- we should expect it at any moment and before this century closes.

In thinking about this message, I think it is helpful to take up the division suggested by the outline of William Sheldon’s book wherein he splits his examination of Adventism between “Theology” and “Prophecy”. For the above message, the first two paragraphs would fall under Advent Christian theology while the last paragraph would fall under Advent Christian prophecy. Between the first two paragraphs we are able to see that it is consistent and coherent throughout, being rich with interconnecting theological implications. Yet between these two paragraphs and the third, we do not see such a necessary connection. One can see how Advent Christian Theology might fuel the fervor of Advent Christian prophecy, but the exchange does not go both ways. Stepping back, there does not appear to be anything distinctive about Advent Christian prophecy as compared with Adventism at large. It seems to only be a slightly more modest continuation of the practices of William Miller. The distinct element of the Advent Christian message was its theology, the belief in humanity’s desperate need for resurrection, the full restoration and continuation of God’s physical creation, and the permanent extinction of evil in the face of the Kingdom of God. 

[1]William Sheldon, Adventism, what is it?: Its relation to theology and prophecy ... (Buchanan, MI:   Western Advent-Christian Publishing Association, 1868).p. 43

[2]ibid. p. 56

[3]ibid. p. 56

[4]ibid. p. 65

[5]ibid. p.112-113

[6]ibid. pp.46-7

[7]ibid. p. 46

[8]John A. Cargile, True theology, or, a condensed library containing a plain, simple, and impartial examination of the Bible on several subjects (Boston: Advent Christian Publication Society, 1888).p. 59

[9]ibid. p.126

[10]ibid. p. 206

[11]ibid. p.211

[12]ibid. p. 163

[13]ibid. p.169

[14]ibid. p.170

[15]E. A. Stockman, Our hope; or, Why are we Adventists? 10th ed. (Boston: Advent Christian Publication Society, 1898).p. 89

[16]ibid. pp.113-4

[17]ibid. pp.114-5

[18]G. L. Young, The two destinies: treating of the future life of the righteous and the final fate of the wicked (Boston: Advent Christian Publication Society, 1895).p. 75

[19]ibid. pp. 209-210

[20]ibid. pp. 206, 243

[21]ibid. p. 243

[22]ibid. p. 217-8

[23]Sheldon, p. 2

[24]ibid. p.11 for necessity of Christ’s return for judgment

[25]ibid. p. 143

[26]ibid. p. 300

[27]ibid. p. 255

[28]Cargile, p. 259

[29]ibid. p. 257

[30]ibid. p. 317

[31]ibid. p. 318

[32]ibid. pp. 319-20

[33]ibid. p.335

[34]Stockman, p. 3

[35]ibid. p.21

[36]ibid. pp. 26-7, 30

[37]ibid. pp. 150-1

[38]ibid. p. 165

[39]ibid. p.169

[40]ibid. p.162

[41]ibid. p.198

[42]Daniel T. Taylor, The great consummation and the signs that herald its approach (Boston: Advent Christian Publication Society, 1906).p. 11

[43]ibid. p. 131

[44]ibid. pp. 223-4

[45]ibid. p.381

[46]ibid. p. 292

[47]ibid. p.318

[48]ibid. p. 318

[49]ibid. p. 375

[50]ibid. pp. 451-2

[51]ibid. p. 453

[52]Sheldon, p. 11

[53]ibid. p.26

[54]ibid. p. 28

[55]ibid. p. 21

[56]ibid. p. 127

[57]ibid. pp.116-27

[58]ibid. pp. 127-131

[59]ibid. p.48

[60]ibid. p. 51

[61]Cargile. p. 50

[62]ibid. p. 57

[63]ibid. p. 53

[64]ibid. p. 86

[65]ibid. p. 86

[66]ibid. p. 89

[67]Stockman. p.128

[68]ibid. p. 75

[69]ibid. p.123

[70]ibid. p.122

[71]ibid. p.139

[72]Taylor, p. 442

[73]ibid. pp. 409-410

[74]ibid. p.410

[75]Young, p. 234

 

What Kind of Soil Are You?  (The Receptive Ground Hearer)

What Kind of Soil Are You? (The Receptive Ground Hearer)

BCC President: "Send your kids to BICS!"

BCC President: "Send your kids to BICS!"