The Sanctuary and the Blotting Out of Sins

The Sanctuary and the Blotting Out of Sins (Part I)

FROM the time that the Adventist believers gained a new view of the meaning of the cleansing of the sanctuary with the insight of Hiram Edson on October 23, 1844, the sanctuary and its meanings have held a prominent place in Adventist thinking. In a survey of the historical development of the doctrine of the sanctuary it is apparent that there have been different areas of stress at different times. . .

FROM the time that the Adventist believers gained a new view of the meaning of the cleansing of the sanctuary with the insight of Hiram Edson on October 23, 1844, the sanctuary and its meanings have held a prominent place in Adventist thinking. In a survey of the historical development of the doctrine of the sanctuary it is apparent that there have been different areas of stress at different times. And Seventh-day Adventists can say rather gratefully that they have made a considerable contribution to theology in their understanding of the meaning of the sanctuary and the priestly work of Christ.

In a study of the sanctuary the aspect of the blotting out of sins is an important part of the subject of righteousness by faith, even though this aspect was not emphasized during the early history of sanctuary interpretation. In fact, the blotting out of sins does not really come into prominence until we get to a more intense proclamation of the doctrine of righteousness by faith as proclaimed about 1888. Accordingly, as this article is concerned with a historical study of the blotting out of sins, more emphasis will be placed in the messages of A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner. And following this, a brief comparison will be made with the writings of Robert D. Brinsmead, who turns to these two authors in particular for support of his message. I think that study of Jones and Waggoner is worthy in that Ellen G. White highly endorsed the 1888 messages of these men:

The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God. . . . This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world.1

Historical Survey

In our review of the understanding that Seventh-day Adventists have had relative to the blotting out of sins, we must first consider the contributions of O. R. L. Crosier. He states:

And now we feel safe in stating, that there is no Scripture authority for calling anything else the Sanctuary under the Gospel dispensation, but the place of Christ's ministry in the heavens, from the time of His ascension to the Father till His second coming.2

In the Day-Star Extra of 1846, he states that the sins of the believers on the Day of Pentecost were not yet blotted out and therefore they had not yet received the atonement which remained to be done when "the times of refreshing shall come," and man shall be made free from sin. "Then in the heavenly Sanctuary our High Priest with His own blood makes the atonement and we are forgiven." This is the work of the Day of Atonement.3 From this brief notation it is evident that Crosier did not have a concept of the believer as the sanctuary to be cleansed.

Uriah Smith, one of the prominent religious writers in our past history, wrote considerably on the subject of the sanctuary. It must be admitted that his concern was more that of proving the 2300 days and the work of Christ as our High Priest in heaven, where He makes atonement for man's sins. To Uriah Smith, Christ only offered a sacrifice on the cross, and his arguments in the pages of the Review and Herald continually support this view.4 He was deeply concerned that any other interpretation would lead to universalism and the doctrine of predestination. But he does go deeper and deals with the blotting out of sins.

And our sins may be blotted out. Yes, the wrinkles on our garments, the stains upon our raiment, the eating leprosy upon our hands, and the hidden canker of our hearts, which we have no power to re move, and in ourselves no hope of redemption from, this may all be removed. And this blotting out, contrary to all analogy, does not leave a deeper stain. Our sins are not blotted out by being covered with something of a darker dye; but the foul traces of sin, and that which blots them out, pass off together, and the record is left without a blemish or a stain.5

This he connects with repentance.

"Repent ye therefore." We may now do this. We are not absolutely fixed in the galling habits of sin; we may break from them.6

The glorious restitution is one of his unalterable purposes. What belongs to us? Repent and [be] converted. Repent and be converted. This is our part. This is our duty.7

In another place where Uriah Smith is considering the cleansing of the sanctuary, he states that the work in the heavenly sanctuary "pertains to individuals; and as Christ's atonement reaches each individual case, that case is decided; for when a person's sins are atoned for and put away, he is forever saved." 8 Apparently, conversion and the righteousness of Christ were effective to complete overcoming of sin for Uriah Smith.

Another writer, R. F. Cottrell, wrote on the sanctuary in 1863 and concluded "that the sanctuary in heaven is the grand center of the Christian system, as the earthly was of the typical," and he adds that the subject of the heavenly sanctuary "is the center and citadel of present truth." 9 About twenty-two years later he wrote expressing the same thought as that of Uriah Smith: "The victim was slain on Calvary; but the atonement must be made by the priest; and Christ was not a priest till He ascended to heaven."10 From his articles, there seems to be no consideration concerning the blotting out of sins. But his concern is that the sanctuary where atonement is made is in heaven.

In 1865, J. N. Loughborough wrote on the Day of Atonement, and it appears that there was still some question about the value of working for the unconverted. He makes a lengthy argument from the fact that not only past sins but sins committed on the Day of Atonement were taken care of on the same day. Therefore, the unconverted should be worked for. He expresses urgency to be ready in view of the work of Christ soon to be drawn to a close and the cases of all will then be decided. Then he says:

Let us, then, be active and thorough in the work of making confession of all our wrongs, and render to God those sacrifices which are meet, that the atoning blood of Christ may avail for us, our sins all be blotted out, and we with joy go up to meet our coming King.11

It seems that the problem of instantaneous perfection or of having a special work done for the sinner in order to prepare him for heaven is not just a problem of this present age but it was giving the church trouble back in 1879. D. T. Bourdeau writes:

Though the doctrine of instantaneous sanctification is being received by many in this age, and occupies a prominent place in most modern revivals, yet I cannot forbear expressing the conviction, and offering the proofs, that it is anti-scriptural and is one of the most dangerous errors that the human mind can embrace. . . .

God sanctifies men in furnishing them the means of sanctification, and in helping them to use these means. . . .

It is not His plan to sanctify men entirely in one instant, though He can every moment sanctify them in proportion as they will cooperate with Him in this progessive work. . . .

Growth in nature is not instantaneous. . . . Self-examination is a very important duty in the work of sanctification. By it we discover our sins, that we may overcome them. . . .

Those who are the farthest advanced in sanctification are the last ones to boast of it. ... The precious blood of Christ also cleanses those walking in the way of sanctification from those sins of ignorance that they have had no opportunity to see and directly repent of, and should they die without a knowledge of these sins, the righteousness of Christ would be imputed to them, and they would be accounted holy, Christ being unto them sanctification as well as justification, with reference to these sins, as well as with reference to those of which they have repented.12

To Bourdeau it was apparent that sanctification is a process where God purposely acts in behalf of man. As he states, God is the source and means of sanctification, but man is definitely aware of the process. With sins of ignorance, which to him are sins not known of by the believer because of insufficient light, they are to be repented of and overcome when they are made known to the person. It is interesting to note the dangers of instant perfection as he sees them: For some, danger may be in discouragement because they still see sins in their lives. Others may overlook still-present sins and either retard or stop the process of sanctification. For some it is fanaticism. Because of its mysterious nature it blinds the eyes of understanding. His final danger is that it "makes conversion a mysterious something that comes upon a man and transforms him without his knowing how it is done, or something that is done so easily that the man of sin need not die." 13

W. W. Prescott, a leading Bible student, saw the process of sin and sanctification in a broad concept for his time. In 1903 he wrote that sin is "treason against God" and His government whereby man attempts to cast down the Creator from His throne and place the sinner in the place of God.14 With regard to the work of Christ and the blotting out of sins he writes:

It has been continued until this present time; it is to be carried forward until an end is made of sin, until it is blotted out, until all that rebellion that would cast God down from His throne, and put the creature in place of the Creator, is utterly removed from the universe, and the universe is clean, so that out of the heart of every created being has been cast even the lurking thought of that sin.15

To Prescott, sin is blotted out of the individual by a revelation of the glory of God. He is concerned that the preaching of righteousness by faith will leave the historic positions of the Adventist faith and believes that when righteousness by faith is preached in the context of the first and second angels' messages then the sins will be blotted out in this generation and the way will be prepared for the coming of the Lord.16

In this case we do find that the author considers sins as being blotted out of the individual. There is no indication that his understanding is any different from the process of sanctification, and it appears that he is using the terms interchangeably.

(To be continued)


1. Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 91, 92.

2. O. R. L. Crosier, "The Sanctuary," Review and Herald, May 5, 1851. D. 80.

3. _____, "The Law of Moses," The Day-Star Extra. Feb. 7, 1846, pp. 41, 42.

4. Uriah Smith, "Seventh-day Adventists and the Atonement," Review and Herald, July 14, 1891, p. 438.

5. _____, "Times of Refreshing," ibid., April 19, 1870, p. 140.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid.

8. Uriah Smith, "Then Shall the Sanctuary Be Cleansed," Review and Herald, March 13, 1888, p. 168.

9. R. F. Cottrell, "The Sanctuary," Review and Herald, Dec. 15, 1863, D. 21.

10. _____, "The Cleansing of the Sanctuary," Review and Herald, April 15, 1884, p. 250.

11. J. N. Loughborough, "Thoughts on the Day of Atonement." Review and Herald, Aug. 15, 1865, p. 83.

12. D. T. Bourdeau, "Refutation of the Doctrine of Instantaneous Sanctification," Review and Herald, Nov. 27, 1879.

13. Ibid.. D. 170,

14. W. W. Prescott, "The Gospel Message for Today," General Conference Bulletin, 1903, p. 52.

15. Ibid., pp. 53, 54.

16. Ibid., p. 54.

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March 1972

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