FROM about A.D. 1563 the Protestants are recognized as God's church under the name Sardis. God's message to this church is:
"These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.
"Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.
"Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.
"Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.
"He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
"He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." 1
The grand principles of the Reformation were justification by faith and the supreme authority of the Word interpreted by the individual as illuminated by the Holy Spirit. And now faith meant confidence and a full surrender of the life. Before, faith had been a form of knowledge, a consent to doctrine and a submission to an institution or a liturgy; and the Romanists had held that the inspired church is the only true interpreter of the Word.
At the Diet of Worms, 1521, Luther challenged the supreme authority of Pope, council, and emperor, and substituted for this trinity of human authority the new trinity of spiritual power--the Scriptures, reason, and conscience. This was his greatest triumph, but as is observed by a church historian, "The pope and church officials set their faces like flint against any reforms," 2 and consequently half of Europe broke away from the papacy and formed the Protestant church.
The three great Reformation principles were: (1) "Holy Scriptures as the sole normal authority for faith and life, (2) Justification by faith alone without any merits of good works, and (3) the priest hood of all believers." 3 The Reformed branch of the Reformation, originating in Switzerland under the leadership of Zwingli and later Calvin, went further than the Lutherans in eliminating Roman Catholic practices.
The Anglican Church is by some considered a third branch of the Reformation. It, however, did not emphasize new truths. In the Anglican Church are found elements from Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism, Zwinglianism, and Calvinism. However, continental Europe had received some of these elements from England through Wycliffe, whose followers, the Lollards, petitioned Parliament for a reform of the church, with the result that a severe persecution broke out against them.
During the early decades of the Reformation the newfound truths were preached with great power, and many lands were won for the new faith. Great zeal characterized not only ministers but laity as well. Luther emphasized especially the love of God, and Calvin His sovereignty. Zwingli emphasized that the death of Christ was the only price for remission of sin and that faith is the key that opens to the soul the treasures of remission.
However, the great creative age of Protestantism was followed by a didactic age. Doctrinal controversies swallowed up life. In Germany this conflict resulted in three parties within the Lutheran Church--the Gnosio-Lutherans, or Genuine Lutherans; the Philippists, or Melanchthonians; and the Middle Party.
The Lutheran princes endeavored to restrain these theological conflicts. They "tried in vain at various peace-synods to ignore the theological differences, and to bring about a concord by merely subscribing to the Augsburg Confession. As these efforts ended in utter failure, they succeeded together with prominent theologians, in securing a fixed doctrine for the separate territorial churches." 4
To settle the disputed religious questions they prepared a Formula of Concord. Their task was made more difficult because it was considered necessary to construct a body of doctrine that would be accepted by all Lutherans but that would be definitely distinguishable from Catholicism and Calvinism. The Book of Concord, which they prepared, included the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed, the Augsburg Confession of 1530, the Apology, the Schmalkald Articles, Luther's two catechisms, and the Formula of Concord.
"The Book of Concord was published in 1580 on the fiftieth anniversary day of the presentation of the Augsburg Confession to the Diet of Augsburg, in 1530. This collection of Confessions was signed by fifty-one princes, thirty-five cities and about nine thousand theologians. The publication and signing of the Book of Concord marked the doctrinal completion of German Lutheranism." 5
"A Name That Thou Livest, and Art Dead"
Church historians are quite agreed that the great theological controversies aiming at true and pure orthodoxy resulted in the loss of spiritual life. If one would quote a Free Church historian on this, some might conclude that he was prejudiced against territorial or national churches. I will, therefore, quote a Lutheran historian.
"The great formative period of the Protestant Reformation was followed by three specific movements known as Orthodoxy, Pietism, and Enlightenment. The first emphasized pure doctrine at the expense of a healthy spiritual life. . . .
"The truth which the great reformers of the sixteenth century had rediscovered in the Scriptures had been stated by them in the several Protestant confessions of faith. Hence the sixteenth century was a period of creeds. But the need was soon felt to have the Protestant doctrines formulated in a more systematized or scientific form, to match the systems of Roman and Greek Catholicism, and to define and differentiate them from all divergent Protestant views. This was largely accomplished during the seventeenth century. . . . The seventeenth century was, therefore, the Age of Orthodoxy.
"Protestant schoolmen, mostly professors in the universities, set themselves to organizing and systematizing the Evangelical faith and doctrine into good teaching form. Hence theological science, especially dogmatics, flourished in the various Protestant communions during the seventeenth century. The most prominent of the new schoolmen were John Gerhard (1583-1637) among the Lutherans, and Gysbert Voetius (1589- 1676) among the Reformed. This new Protestant scholasticism contained much that was good and commendable, but the whole movement was conspicuously one-sided. The Bible became an arsenal from which doctrines were to be proved. The Gospel was treated as doctrine rather than as a power of God unto salvation, and Christianity was presented as a religion of right thinking without a corresponding emphasis on the right condition of the heart. This one-sided emphasis on right thinking made the age of orthodoxy an age of great theological controversies." 6
Qualben refers to orthodoxy as producing quarrelsome theologians and a parched Protestantism. 7 It must have been with this in mind that Sweden's most distinguished poet and renowned bishop, Esaias Tegner said: "Theology is metaphysics applied on religion a skull inverted over a lily." 8 Truly it could be said of orthodoxy, "Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead."
Newman, in referring to this time, speaks of "the utterly depressed condition of religious life in Germany, the almost universal immorality in the universities, the almost complete destitution of edificatory preaching, and the almost complete lack of other means of awakening and stimulating spiritual life. . . . Personal conversion," he states, "even in the case of ministers of the gospel, seems not to have been expected. Baptism, administered in infancy, was supposed to have magical efficacy in procuring salvation; and the partaking of the body and blood of Christ in the Supper was supposed to be a means of grace even in the cases of the most immoral and irreligious. . . . The spiritual forces that were involved in the great Anabaptist movement had been crushed out." 9
The Philadelphia Period
Such were the antecedents to the Philadelphia period of the church, which period was brought on by the Pietistic movement pioneered by such men as Philip Jacob Spener and August Hermann Francke. From 1663 to 1666 Spener was pastor in Strassburg and lecturer in the university in that city.
"His preaching was strongly practical and deeply devout. He sought to impress on those having the ministry in view the responsibility of the pastoral office and the importance of preaching for the conversion and edification of the people rather than for the defense of dogma and the combating of adverse forms of belief. . . . He began to insist that laymen should assist the pastor in spiritual work. He now began to discredit merely intellectual belief as a means of salvation and to insist that saving faith involves a complete transformation of the whole being by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. . . . His chief reliance was on a better knowledge of the Bible to be gained in private assemblies for its study; ... on a general recognition of the fact that Christianity is not a matter of knowledge solely, but of life, and that Christian life should be an exemplification of the principle of love." 10
Francke, after two months' intercourse with Spener, returned to Leipzig in 1689. "Here his biblical lectures and his sermons attracted great audiences, and religious agencies were established which deeply affected the life of the university and of the city." 11
Spener procured for Francke an appointment to a pastorate and professor ship in Halle, where under Francke's direction a great orphanage was established that set an example to evangelical Christians everywhere of practical philanthropy, which had been much neglected. Halle, under his influence, greatly flourished and became the center of religious influence for the whole of Germany.
A ten-year-old boy from an Austrian noble family, born in 1700, was sent to Francke's school in Halle, where he be came the leader in religious matters and organized among the boys the "order of the Grain of Mustard Seed" for the promotion of personal piety and the evangelization of the world. This was Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf, the great leader of the Moravian and Bohemian colony, who when driven from their homes by the Catholics were invited to settle on his estate in Berthelsdorf in Saxony, where the village of Herrnhut ("the Lord's Watchtower") be came the center of their colony. Here Zinzendorf introduced both foot washing and the keeping of the seventh-day Sabbath, which latter he also did in the Moravian church in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, which I have personally verified by visiting the place and reading the church clerk's report of their meeting on June 13, O.S. or June 24, N.S., 1742.
Concerning this movement Fisher says: "With a religious life remarkable as combining warm emotion with a quiet and serene type of feeling, the community of Zinzendorf connected a missionary zeal not equalled at this time in any other Protestant communion. Although few in number, they sent their gospel messengers to all quarters of the globe. At the same time, they were exceedingly useful in awakening the Lutheran Church from the lethargy which prevailed in it, and did much to diffuse a more living piety. Their schools drew into them large numbers who were not connected with the Moravian Church; and, during the long and dreary period of rationalism, they afforded a sanctuary for the old gospel, with its blessed promises and glorious hopes." 12
These Pietistic movements spread like prairie fire into the Eastern European countries and Scandinavia as well as England and North America. Most of these countries were visited personally by Zinzendorf. It spurred on the establishment of what is known as Free Churches. Of these the Baptists and Quakers had already arisen and were exerting a strong and wholesome influence in conceding complete liberty of conscience to the individual.
One movement related to Pietism began in England contemporaneously with the Moravian movement on the continent of Europe. At the University of Oxford, John and Charles Wesley, with a number of other students, organized in 1629 the "Holy Club" for the purpose of methodical Bible study, the reading of good books, and prayer. Because of this and their scrupulous observance of the regulations of the university and their methodical habits of life, they were in derision called Methodists. Like the Pietists they had no intention of founding a new denomination that would differ with the state church, but rather to infuse life into the dead forms of the state church, because at this time the spiritual life in England as well as on the continent was at a low ebb.
The truths that the Methodists especially emphasized were conversion and the new birth, with accompanying holiness or sanctification. They preached against slavery and forbade the use of strong drink and tobacco. They required plainness of dress and forbade worldly pleasures and secret societies.
Pietism and Methodism were not a re action against Catholicism. They arose in Protestant countries. They were a spiritual fountain that surged in an arid desert, a challenge to the dull ethics of the epoch, with new emphasis on sanctification. They were opposed to predestination, which makes God the author of sin.
The Awakening in North America
The Pietistic and Methodist movements also crossed the Atlantic to the colonies in North America, where prior to the Revolutionary War we meet them under the name of the "Great Awakening," the high tide of which came in 1740-1741 during George Whitefield's second visit. Some of the leaders in this movement were Theodore J. Frelinghuysen, a German Pietist minister; Gilbert Tennent; and Jonathan Edwards.
After the Revolutionary War came the "Second Awakening," and the "Great Revival," which was most successfully conducted through camp meetings that were peculiarly adapted to stir the frontiersman. In August, 1801, a camp meeting was held at Cane Ridge, Kentucky, where about twenty-five thousand were in attendance, including the Governor. Seven stands were erected so that for seven days seven ministers could preach at the same time.
It was these Free Church movements that awakened the church to its responsibility in behalf of the heathen nations, and thus gave rise to the foreign mission movement.
The last in the series of religious movements that arose to awaken the Sardis church and bring about the Philadelphia period and become a part of the Philadelphia church was the Great Advent Movement, which began in the nineteenth century. Like the great Reformation of the sixteenth century, it began contemporaneously in various countries. By searching the prophecies many became convinced that the coming of the Saviour was near. With a tremendous impetus the movement spread swiftly to all civilized countries. Those who joined the movement were called by different names in different countries, as for example, the Irvingites in England (the followers of Irving), "Criers" in Sweden, and Millerites in North America (named after William Miller, a Baptist, who from 1831 was considered the leader of the Advent Movement in North America). But generally "Adventist" constituted part of the names that were adopted by these movements, which were not organized into separate denominations until they were disfellowshiped by the church to which they belonged.
Preaching the Second Advent
In England the message concerning the second coming of Christ was preached not only among the so-called Free Churches but also within the state church. Mourant Brock says that within the state church the same message was preached by about seven hundred clergy men. A converted Jew, Joseph Wolff, preached about the soon coming of Christ in Europe, Africa, and large sections of Asia. He arrived in New York in 1837, where he presented the message, as he also did in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and finally in Washington, D.C., where the President, John Quincy Adams, invited him to speak before Congress. He says that all members of Congress, the bishop of Virginia, and ministers and citizens of Washington were present. He also preached before the State legislature in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
In 1838 a minister by the name of Josia Litch began to proclaim the same mes sage, and the following year Joshua V. Himes did the same. Soon three hundred ministers were preaching this mes sage. The Methodist Yearbooks show that from 1840-1844 there were 256,000 persons converted in North America. This was a large percentage of the population, which in 1840 was 17,069,453 in the United States.
The message to the church for this period contains the inspiring promise, "I come quickly" and the church, true to its mission, quickly spread this glad message in many lands. Thus the Advent Movement rapidly entered countries where this message had not been proclaimed, as well as unentered portions of the countries where it had been preached.
However, the condition of the church during the last period of earth's history is revealed in the message to the church in Laodicea. The true witness says that it is lukewarm, and admonishes it to be zealous and repent.
No one can successfully deny that the teachings of evolution, pantheism, and what has been misnamed Higher Criticism of the Bible have not created a liberalism in Protestantism that has robbed the church of its zeal. Religious lukewarmness is the characteristic of our age. Even the conservative elements of the church must fight against this tendency lest its adherents be overcome by religious indifference.
Ellen C. White has written:
The warning for the last church also must be proclaimed to all who claim to be Christians. The Laodicean message, like a sharp, two-edged sword, must go to all the churches. ... It is our work to proclaim this message. Are we putting forth every effort that the churches may be warned? 13
1. Rev. 3:1-6.
2. Lars P. Qualben, A History of the Christian Church (New York: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1942), p. 201.
3. Ibid., p. 216.
4. Ibid., pp. 283, 284.
5. Ibid., p. 284.
6. Ibid., pp. 356, 357.
7. Ibid., p. 357.
8. Esaias Tegner; Samlade skrifter (Stockholm: Wrangel & Book, Vol. 6,1922), p. 67.
9. A. H. Newman, A Manual of Church History, Vol. 2 (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1903), p. 525.
10. Ibid., pp. 526, 527.
11. Ibid., p. 528.
12. C. P. Fisher, History of the Christian Church (New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1887), p. 507.
13. Ellen C. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 77.