MUTUAL CONFERENCE AT ALBANY--DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES--PLAN OF OPERATIONS--ADDRESS TO THE BRETHREN--ACTION OF THE CONFERENCE DEFENDED BY MR. MILLER, ETC.
"ON the 23d of April, Mr. Miller, in company with Mr. Himes, visited Albany, and commenced a course of lectures on the prophecies. Mr. M. spoke with his usual clearness and ability, was in good spirits, and was listened to by a large and respectful audience.
"On the 29th, the Conference assembled at 9 A. M., at the 'House of Prayer,' in Grand street. After singing, and a prayer by Mr. Miller, it was temporarily organized by the choice of Mr. Miller, Chairman, and Mr. Himes, Secretary, who stated the objects for which the Conference had been called, namely, 'to consult together respecting the condition and wants of brethren in the several sections of the country; that we may be better enabled to act in concert, and with more efficiency, in the promulgation of gospel truths.'
"After the names and residences of members were ascertained, the Conference was fully organized by the choice of Rev. Elon Galusha, of Lockport, N. Y., President, and S. Bliss and O. R. Fassett, Secretaries.
"A committee of twelve, consisting of William Miller, Josiah Litch, N. N. Whiting, J. V. Himes, Sylvester Bliss, L. D. Fleming, Erastus Parker, H. Caswell, I. R. Gates, I. H. Shipman, Prosper Powell, and Elon Galusha, were appointed to arrange business for the action of the Conference. While they were thus engaged, the others were profitably occupied in listening to statements of the condition of things in different sections of the country. The committee reported, in part, on the second day, and in full on the third and last day of the session as follows:--
"'REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE TO THE CONFERENCE.
"'Your committee, appointed for the purpose of taking into consideration the great principles upon which we can unite and act in advancing the cause of truth, for the edification of the body of Christ, the salvation of souls, and the preparation of man for the near advent of the Saviour, submit the following report:--
"'In view of the many conflicting opinions, unscriptural views, leading to unseemly practices, and the sad divisions which have been thereby caused by some professing to be Adventists, we deem it incumbent on us to declare to the world our belief that the Scriptures teach, among others, the following
"'1. That the heavens and earth which are now, by the word of God, are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of Judgment and perdition of ungodly men. That the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; the earth also, and the works that are therein, shall be burned up. That the Lord will create new heavens and a new earth, wherein righteousness--that is, the righteous--will forever dwell.(1) And that the kingdom and the dominion under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.(2)
"'2. That there are but two advents or appearings of the Saviour to this earth.(3) That both are personal and visible.(4) That the first took place in the days of Herod,(5) when he was conceived of the Holy Ghost,(6) born of the Virgin Mary,(7) went about doing good,(8) suffered on the cross, the just for the unjust,(9) died,(10) was buried,(11) arose again the third day, the first-fruits of them that slept,(12) and ascended into the heavens,(13) which must receive him until the times of the restitution of all things, spoken of by the mouth of all the holy prophets.(14) That the second coming or appearing will take place when he shall descend from Heaven, at the sounding of the last trump, to give his people rest,(15) being revealed from heaven in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the gospel.(16) And that he will judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and kingdom.(17)
"'3. That the second coming or appearing is indicated to be now emphatically nigh, even at the doors,(18) by the chronology of the prophetic periods,(19) the fulfillment of prophecy,(20) and the signs of the times.(21) And that this truth should be preached both to saints and sinners, that the first may rejoice, knowing their redemption draweth nigh,(22) and the last be warned to flee from the wrath to come,(23) before the Master of the house shall rise up and shut to the door.(24)
"'4. That the condition of salvation is repentance toward God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.(25) And that those who have repentance and faith will live soberly, and righteously, and godly, in this present world, looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.(26)
"'5. That there will be a resurrection of the bodies of all the dead,(27) both of the just and the unjust.(28) That those who are Christ's will be raised at his coming.(29) That the rest of the dead will not live again until after a thousand years.(30) And that the saints shall not all sleep, but shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye at the last trump.(31)
"'6. That the only millennium taught in the word of God is the thousand years which are to intervene between the first resurrection and that of the rest of the dead, as inculcated in the 20th of Revelation.(32) And that the various portions of scripture which refer to the millennial state are to have their fulfillment after the resurrection of all the saints who sleep in Jesus.(33)
"'7. That the promise, that Abraham should be the heir of the world, was not to him, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.(34) That they are not all Israel which are of Israel.(35) That there is no difference, under the gospel dispensation, between Jew and Gentile.(36) That the middle wall of partition that was between them is broken down, no more to be rebuilt.(37) That God will render to every man according to his deeds.(38) That if we are Christ's, then are we Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.(39) And that the only restoration of Israel, yet future, is the restoration of the saints to the earth, created anew, when God shall open the graves of those descendants of Abraham who died in faith, without receiving the promise, with the believing Gentiles who have been grafted in with them into the same olive tree; and shall cause them to come up out of their graves, and bring them, with the living, who are changed, into the land of Israel.(40)
"'8. That there is no promise of this world's conversion.(41) That the horn of papacy will war with the saints, and prevail against them, until the Ancient of Days shall come, and judgment be given to the saints of the Most High, and the time come that the saints possess the kingdom.(42) That the children of the kingdom, and the children of the wicked one, will continue together until the end of the world, when all things that offend shall be gathered out of the kingdom, and the righteous shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.(43) That the man of sin will only be destroyed by the brightness of Christ's coming.(44) And that the nations of those which are saved and redeemed to God by the blood of Christ, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation, will be made kings and priests unto God, to reign forever on the earth.(45)
"'9. That it is the duty of the ministers of the word to continue in the work of preaching the gospel to every creature, even unto the end,(46) calling upon them to repent, in view of the fact that the kingdom of Heaven is at hand;(47) that their sins may be blotted out when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.(48)
"'10. That the departed saints do not enter their inheritance, or receive their crowns, at death.(49) That they without us cannot be made perfect.(50) That their inheritance, incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, is reserved in Heaven, ready to be revealed in the last time.(51) That there are laid up for them and us crowns of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give at the day of Christ to all that love his appearing.(52) That they will only be satisfied when they awake in Christ's likeness.(53) And that, when the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, the King will say to those on his right hand, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."(54) Then they will be equal to the angels, being the children of God and of the resurrection.(55)
"'We are induced, from present circumstances affecting our spiritual interests, to present, for your consideration, a few ideas touching associated action.
"'Order is Heaven's first law. All things emanating from God are constituted on principles of perfect order. The New Testament rules for the government of the church we regard as binding on the whole brotherhood of Christ. No circumstances can justify us in departing from the usages established by Christ and his apostles.
"'We regard any congregation of believers, who habitually assemble for the worship of God and the due observance of gospel ordinances, as a church of Christ. As such, it is an independent body, accountable only to the great Head of the church. To all such we recommend a careful examination of the Scriptures, and the adoption of such principles of association and order as are in accordance therewith, that they may enjoy the advantages of that church relation which Christ has instituted.
"'PLAN OF OPERATIONS.
"'In the midst of our disappointed hopes of seeing the King of glory, and being made like him, and still finding ourselves in a world of sin, snares, and death, the question forces itself upon us, What now is our work?
"'To us it seems clear that our first work is to make straight paths for our feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way. We are in duty bound to give the household meat in due season, and to build ourselves up in our most holy faith. While doing this, we are to continue in obedience to the great commission, to preach the gospel to every creature; so long as the love of Christ dwells in us, it will constrain us. We shall not be released, while in our present state, from our obligations to be "workers, together with God," in saving those for whom the Redeemer died. It is evident that the duty, which of right devolves on every minister of the gospel, of proclaiming the hour of God's judgment, is, if performed at all, to be done by those who are convinced of its truth. . . . . . . . .
"The above, after a full discussion and careful examination, was unanimously adopted; as was also, from the pen of Mr. Miller, the following
"'ADDRESS TO THE BRETHREN.
"'The present state of our faith and hope, with the severe trials which many of us experience, call for much brotherly love, forbearance, patience, and prayer. No cause, be it ever so holy, can exist in this present world, without its attendant evils. Therefore, it becomes necessary for all who are connected with this cause to exercise great charity; for charity covers a multitude of sins.
"'The cause we advocate calls upon all men to read the word of God, and to reason, judge, compare, and digest for themselves. This is certainly right, and is the privilege of all rational members of the community. Yet this very liberty may become a stumbling-block to many, and without charity, be the means of scattering, dividing, and causing contention among brethren. Human nature is such that those who are governed by a desire to rule over others will seize the reins, and think all must bow to their decision; while others will think such unfit for the station they assume. James foresaw the evils under which we labor, and gives us a caution in his third chapter, to which we shall do well to take heed. Our present difficulties arise more from the multiplicity of masters and leaders among us) some of whom are governed by carnal motives) than from any want of light. The word of God affords light enough to guide us in all cases, "that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto every good work." But among the thousand-and-one expositions of Scripture, which are every day being palmed upon us, some of them, at least, must be wrong. Many of them are so weak and silly that they bring a stigma on the blessed book, confuse the mind of the inquirer after truth, and divide the children of God.
"'To remedy this evil, we must learn to judge men and principles by their fruits, and not be too hasty in receiving the exposition which may be presented by every pretender to wisdom and sanctity. Any exposition of Scripture which conflicts with other texts must be spurious. Any man whose object is to obtain followers must be avoided. Whatever produces envy and strife, brethren, is of the devil; and we must resist his temptations in their beginning. If God has been with us from the commencement of our illumination respecting the hope of his glorious appearing, shall we abandon the truth wherein our souls have been comforted, and our brotherly love established, for fables? We ought to be careful lest we grieve the Holy Spirit. How did we receive this doctrine at first? Was it not by searching the word of God, and a careful comparison of scripture with scripture? Yes; our faith did not rest on the word of man. We then required chapter and verse, or we would not believe. Why should we leave our former rule of faith, to follow the vain and changing opinions of men? Some are neglecting the lamp, and seeking to walk by sparks of their own kindling. There is a propensity in many to make all prophecy apply to our time and country. Others have split on this rock. Some of the best writers and commentators have thus erred. They have, in many instances, considered themselves, their sect, or their nation, as the peculiar favorites of Heaven; and have therefore often failed to apply prophecy aright. An Englishman, writing on prophecy, will make the English territory the principal place of action--the Frenchman, France--the German, Germany--and an American, the United States. So is it with all sectarians. When minds are contracted by selfishness and bigotry, they lose sight of the glory of God, and his word, and seek only their own glory. On the other hand, they neglect, if they do not actually reject, such parts of the oracles of God as militate against their views, and rush headlong into error. If we are thus liable to be deceived by the cunning craftiness of men, we ought to be cautious how we are led by every fanciful interpretation of Scripture. Let us then be more wary, and, like the noble Bereans, search the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things are so. Then, if we err, we shall have the consolation that we have made a careful examination of the subject, and that the error was one of the head, and not of the heart. Christians should receive no evidence but the testimony of God as a ground of faith.
"'We are commanded to be sober, and hope to the end for that grace which is to be brought unto us at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Our disappointment, as to the time, should have no effect on our hope. We know that Christ has not yet been revealed, and the object of our hope is yet in the future. Therefore, if we believe in God's word, as we profess, we ought to be thankful for the trial of our faith.
"'We shall not have to wait long for the glorious appearing of Christ. Therefore, let us lift up our heads and rejoice, knowing that our redemption draweth nigh. We regret to see any impatience manifested among the friends of Jesus. God is now trying our graces. How solemn the thought that any should lose the crown when near the goal! Let us arise, shake off our dullness, redouble our diligence, let all the world know there is such a grace as Christian perseverance, and let all see that we are truly seeking a better country. Can it be possible, after we have run well for a season, loved the appearing of Jesus, come to a time when we must expect him, and should be ready to cast ourselves into his arms, that we shall go back, or again strike hands with a thoughtless world? May God forbid! Let us then go forward. It is death to go back; to go forward can be no more.
"'We are pained to see a disposition to murmur against those who have been pioneers in the war--who have sacrificed all earthly considerations to support a truth so unpopular as the second advent and personal reign of Jesus Christ.
"'Brethren, shun such as cause divisions among very friends. Remember the admonition of James: "Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned; behold, the Judge standeth at the door." We see, by this rule, that when a brother loses his fellowship for the saints, he is certainly in darkness. We must be careful not to follow what he may term "light." Love for brethren is a test of our interest in Christ, without which all gifts and works are like sounding brass, and a tinkling cymbal. Let us cultivate, with peculiar care, this loveliest of all Christian graces, and frown on the man who attempts to cause division. "Offenses must needs come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh!" What can we say more, to stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance?
"'We would, therefore, recommend more study of the Scriptures, and less writing, and that we be careful not to submit to public inspection mere speculations until they are closely scrutinized by some judicious friend. Thus we shall avoid many errors. We should always be more jealous of ourselves than of others. Self-love is the strongest, most dangerous, and deceitful foe that we meet in our Christian warfare. We have arrived at a period of deep interest and peril. It is interesting, because the evidence of the Saviour being at the door is plain, so that no sincere student of prophecy can be at a loss to know that that day, for which all other days were made, is near. How interesting to live in expectation of the day which patriarchs, prophets, and apostles, desired to see, but died without the sight! Persecution and death lose their sting, in prospect of the coming Conqueror, who hath all power, and who hath engaged to put all enemies under his feet. We need not murmur; for, in this our day, God will bring to pass this act, this (to the worldly man) strange act, for which all the weary saints, for six thousand years, have lived and prayed. We entreat you to hold fast the confidence which you have had in the word of God unto the end. "Yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry." "Here is the patience and the faith of the saints." "Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh."
"'WM. MILLER, Chairman of Committee.'
"The doings of that Conference were unanimously ratified by the annual Conferences subsequently held, in that year in New York and in Boston; and the 'important truths' there inculcated were often unanimously re-affirmed, so that they have become the settled principles of those known as Adventists. Others, dissenting from them, but agreeing in unimportant particulars, and yet claiming to be Adventists, are not recognized as such by Adventists.
"Mr. Miller was in Boston, where he arrived on Saturday, May 24, to attend the annual Conference there of the week following. That commenced on Monday, May 26, when Mr. M. discoursed from Rev. 6:17: 'For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?' He made a personal and practical application of this event, and presented the evidence of its probable nearness.
"During the Conference, he spoke feelingly of the passing of the time. He remarked that, 'Ere this, he had been in hopes of meeting all present in the heavenly kingdom. But, if we love the Lord Jesus Christ, however much we may be disappointed, we shall not forget Christ's coming. God may see fit to disappoint us, sometimes, for our good. We may not see the wisdom and fullness of the whole of God's plan; but he never tries us but for our profit. Therefore, we should not be disheartened or cast down.' Every disappointment only made him more strong in the belief of the certainty of the nearness of Christ's appearing.
"'I had,' he said, 'denied the Bible for twelve years. I used to read it to see how curiously men would act, and contradict each other. But suddenly I became more solemn; its truth began to dawn upon my mind; and I was in great darkness for six months. I saw that I was a poor sinner; but I was soon enabled to love Jesus Christ, and have continued to love him even till the present time. I saw that, if the Bible was true, Christ was the only Saviour of men. I then began to study the Scriptures more fully--determined to study, text by text, till I was fully satisfied as to their import. In comparing scripture with scripture, such a light broke in upon my mind as I had never before seen. I was about two years in going through with the Bible in this manner; and I found it a perfect piece of order and beauty. And, though I have been greatly disappointed, yet I have never ceased to love and regard the authority of the Scriptures.
"'Brethren, we must keep humble. I sometimes tremble when I see individuals endeavoring to exalt themselves, and denounce others who do not see just as they do. Be careful not to err in favor of self. Be careful to avoid self-righteousness. I have noticed that those who have left the second advent cause are the very ones for whom I used to tremble, in view of their arrogancy and self-righteousness. We must not look to ourselves, but must look alone to God. We must cling to our heavenly Father's arm, that we may hold fast our confidence even unto the end. The word of God teaches us that we are to be guided alone by him. Had our brethren who have apostatized thus looked to him, they would never have fallen into the awful errors into which they have been led. I love those brethren, but I tremble for their errors. Oh! let us depend wholly on God, that we may be preserved also from departing from the rectitude of our faith! And may we all be enabled to live out the prayer, "Not my will, O God, but thine be done."'
(1) 2 Pet. 3:7, 10, 13.
(2) Dan. 7:27.
(3) Heb. 9:28.
(4) Acts 1:9, 11.
(5) Matt. 2:1.
(6) Matt. 1:18.
(7) Matt. 1:25.
(8) Matt. 11:5.
(9) 1 Pet. 3:18.
(10) Luke 23:46.
(11) Luke 23:53.
(12) 1 Cor. 15:4.
(13) Luke 24:51.
(14) Acts 3:21.
(15) 1 Thess. 4:16, 17; 1 Cor. 15:52.
(16) 2 Thess. 1:7, 8.
(17) 2 Tim. 4:1.
(18) Matt. 24:33.
(19) Dan. 7:25; 8:14; 9:24; 12:7, 11, 12; Rev. 9:10, 15; 11:2, 3; 12:6, 14; 13:5.
(20) Dan. 2d, 7th, 8th, 9th, 11th, and 12th chaps.; Rev. 9th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th and 17th chaps.
(21) Matt. 24:29; Luke 21:25, 26.
(22) Luke 21:28; 1 Thess. 4:18.
(23) 2 Cor. 5:11.
(24) Luke 13:24, 25.
(25) Acts 20:21; Mark 1:15.
(26) Titus 2:11-13.
(27) John 5:28, 29.
(28) Acts 24:15.
(29) 1 Cor. 15:23.
(30) Rev. 20:5.
(31) 1 Cor. 15:51, 52.
(32) Rev. 20:2-7.
(33) Isa. 11; 35:1, 2, 5-10; 65:17-25.
(34) Rom. 4:13.
(35) Rom. 9:6.
(36) Rom 10:12.
(37) Eph. 2:14, 15.
(38) Rom. 2:6.
(39) Gal. 3:29.
(40) Eze. 37:12; Heb. 11:12, 13; Rom. 11:17; John 5:28,29.
(41) Matt. 24:14.
(42) Dan. 7:21, 22.
(43) Matt. 13:37-43.
(44) 2 Thess. 2:8.
(45) Rev. 5:9, 10; 21:24.
(46) Matt. 28:19, 20.
(47) Rev. 14:7.
(48) Acts 3:19, 20.
(49) Dan. 12:13; Rev. 6:9-11; Rom. 8:22, 23.
(50) Heb. 11:40.
(51) 1 Pet. 1:4, 5.
(52) 2 Tim. 4:8.
(53) Ps. 17:15.
(54) Matt. 25:34.
(55) Luke 20:36.
(56) The great sin of this time evidently was the disposition of the leading men in the cause to draw back from the clear position, powerful work, and deep experience, of the time movement. They were disappointed and greatly embarrassed. And instead of patiently waiting for God to open to their minds the great sanctuary question in his own good time, they impatiently and rashly cast away their confidence in the work of God, and abandoned themselves to the fearful work described in the following prophetic exhortation of Paul: "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. Now the just shall live by faith; but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul." Heb. 10:35-39.
The application of this exhortation is so very natural and forcible that it will hardly be called in question. It was a fearful time. Satan was in a most powerful manner attaching the fancies and extravagances of fanaticism to the only true and correct position. This made the gulf between the two parties still wider. Both in their extreme positions hurt each other. The course of those who were drawing back filled the other with terror, while their extremes in turn confirmed the more prudent that to draw back was the only safe position.
In such a position, with God's frown upon them, he could not bless their associated efforts at the Albany Conference to rise above existing elements of confusion, and shake off the reproach that was being brought upon the second advent cause. Associated action, upon proper ground, has been right in all periods of the Christian church; but that work at the Albany Conference proved itself not of God, in that it has, in the main, come to nought. The present condition of the surviving leaders in that compact to facilitate a grand march into Egypt, and who drew Mr. Miller in a degree into their confederacy, is indeed deplorable. But that faithful man of God, with the weight of years, and the feebleness of the terrible strain of labors upon him, could not be induced to deny the hand of God in the advent movement, to which he had confidingly devoted all. J. W.