The Adventist Church’s co-founder reflects
on what it means to wait for Jesus
As we look back upon the great Advent movement, with its joyful expectations and bitter disappointments, its prosperity and adversity, its triumphant victories and its trials, it appears just like the work of God in separating a people from the world, to purify, make white, and try, and thus make them ready for the coming of their Lord. Have Adventists been disappointed? So were the Israelites, in not immediately entering Canaan. And the disciples, as Jesus died upon the cross. Have the faith and patience of Adventists been tried? So were the faith and patience of the Israelites tried in their term of forty years’ wandering in the wilderness. And that of the disciples was severely tested in the unexpected death of their beloved Teacher. Have but comparatively few of the once happy expectants of the King of glory held fast their faith and hope? And have many cast away their confidence in this work and drawn back to perdition? Caleb and Joshua alone, of the six hundred thousand male adults that left Egypt, entered the goodly land. And what of the chosen twelve in the hour of our Lord’s apprehension? “Then all the disciples forsook him and fled” [Matt 26:56].
God has never been able to make anything very great or very good of man. It has been His plan to prove His people in every age, to test their faith and patience. This has been for the good of man and the glory of His name. It was necessary that such noble characters as Noah, Abraham, Job, and Daniel should suffer the severest tests. And how unlike the work of God in all past time, had the many thousands of Adventists triumphantly entered the kingdom at the point of expectation, with hardly a single trial. “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life” [James 1:12]. This is God’s plan. First the cross and the trial, then the crown of unfading glory. As I “call to remembrance the former days,” touching the Advent movement, and see its adaptation to the wants of the people, and God’s great plan of saving men, my soul says, “He hath done all things well.”
It was necessary, in order that the first message should arouse the people and separate those who should receive it from the spirit of the world, that it should not only relate to the fearful realities of the judgment, but also to the period when it might be expected. “Fear God, and give glory to him, for the hour of his judgment is come.” The proclamation of the time was a part of God’s plan. This brought the coming of the Lord very near. This was right. This was necessary to move the people. And when the time passed, instead of calling the attention of believers to some period in the future to which they might look for the coming of the Lord, the Spirit of God sweetly and powerfully applied to their consecrated minds and hearts such passages as, “Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry” [Heb. 10:35-37].
How long this little while would be, no one knew. It was not best that any one should know when it would terminate. And more, it was God’s plan that this should not be known; but that they should move along through the period of the patience of the saints [Rev. 14:12], up to the coming of the Lord, ever keeping that event just before them. Those who have taught the three messages the past twenty years, have all the way presented the coming of Christ at hand. This has been as God designed. And those who would murmur at God’s ministers for this, murmur against the providence of God.
It is painful to hear those who have their faces set toward Egypt complain that the message was not properly preached to them. The coming of the Lord was presented too near. And that if they had understood the matter, they should have laid their plans for the future differently, and now their property might be double its present value. These murmur against the direct providence of God. The coming of the Lord was brought very near in 1844, to rid men of the love of this world, that they might share the love of the Father, and seek a preparation for the coming of his Son. They cannot have both. “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” [1 John 2:15]. And it was designed that the coming of Christ should be viewed near by believers, every step of the Way from the disappointment in 1844 to the gates of the golden city, to keep them free from the love of this world.
An energetic Advent minister, on visiting the believers at Roxbury, Mass[achusetts, United States], being asked, “What is your message now, Bro. B.?” answered, “Come out of her my people.” Soon after the passing of the time he visited that people again, and in reply to the inquiry, “What is your message now, Bro. B.?” made the apt and appropriate reply, “Stay out of her my people.” So Heaven designed that the coming of Christ should be brought very near to tear from men the love of this world, and that in their faith they should ever hold His coming just before them all the way till faith should be lost in the blazing glories of the coming of the Son of man. If we keep the coming of Jesus ever near, and live consistently with such a faith, keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, we may be saved. But remove the coming of the Lord to the distant future, become imbued with the love and spirit of this world, and remain in such a state, and perdition is certain. Let the painful history of the past relative to those who have said in their hearts, “My Lord delayeth his coming,” have apostatized and have been scattered to the world and to Satan, be a warning to all to be ever “looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God” [2 Pet. 3:12].
When the warning voice of the first angel was first heard, it found the nominal churches asleep upon the subject of the Second Advent, dreaming of the world’s conversion. But the truth was clear, and, in the hands of devoted men, was powerful. Everywhere the message was proclaimed it produced general conviction. The Scriptures were searched as never before; a great revolution in religious belief took place in a few short years; and at least fifty thousand inAmerica alone became decided believers. The prophetic times in connection with that message served their purpose, and terminated with that message. The first angel’s message was a time message. The second and third are not time messages. That aroused men in view of the fast approaching judgment. These tell them what they must do to be saved.
James White (1820-1881), along with his wife, Ellen G. White, and Captain Joseph Bates, is considered one of the cofounders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and served as its most prominent early leader, including several terms as president of the church’s General Conference. Born in Maine, (U.S.), White was a Millerite preacher of the second coming of Jesus in the 1840s. In 1846, he married Ellen Gould Harmon, and for the next 35 years their lives were inextricably connected to the growing Advent movement and the organization of the denomination. Founder of the Present Truth and the Review and Herald journals (now the Adventist Review), James White was a prolific author, entrepreneur, editor, and evangelist. This selection is from his autobiographical work, Life Incidents, first published in 1868. All Scriptures quoted are from the King James Version.