Ellen G. White from the Inspired Word of the Spirit of Prophecy, gives us a clear record of such historical development.
The first angel’s message: “Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.” Rev. 14:8 was given in the years 1840-844. The Protestant church rejected such message. The second angel’s message was given next.
“When the churches spurned the counsel of God by rejecting the Advent message, the Lord rejected them. The first angel was followed by a second, proclaiming, "Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication." [REV. 14:8] This message was understood by Adventists to be an announcement of the moral fall of the churches in consequence of their rejection of the first message. The proclamation, "Babylon is fallen," was given in the summer of 1844, and as the result, about fifty thousand withdrew from these churches.” 4SP 232
“Adventists, seeing that the churches rejected the testimony of God's word, could no longer regard them as constituting the church of Christ, "the pillar and ground of the truth;" and as the message, "Babylon is fallen," began to be proclaimed, they felt themselves justified in separating from their former connection.” 4SP 237
The religious movement in 1844 is described as:
“Of all the great religious movements since the days of the apostles, none have been more free from human imperfection and the wiles of Satan than was that of the autumn of 1844. Even now, after the lapse of many years, all who shared in that movement and who have stood firm upon the platform of truth still feel the holy influence of that blessed work and bear witness that it was of God.” GC 401
“It seems to me that this must be a little the nearest to apostolic revivals of anything that modern times have witnessed." RH, November 25, 1884, par. 14
The first angel’s message was given “to separate the church of Christ from the corrupting influence of the world.” 4SP231 At its proclamation, the Protestant churches “were in Babylon.” 4SP239 When they rejected the first angel’s message in the summer of 1844, they became Babylon fallen as proclaimed by the second angel. About 50,000 Adventists were justified in separating themselves from their churches. It is only when a church or churches become “Babylon fallen” that members are justified in separating from their connections.
“While I was praying at the family altar, the Holy Ghost fell upon me, and I seemed to be rising higher and higher, far above the dark world. I turned to look for the Advent people in the world, but could not find them, when a voice said to me, "Look again, and look a little higher." At this I raised my eyes, and saw a straight and narrow path, cast up high above the world. On this path the Advent people were traveling to the city, which was at the farther end of the path. They had a bright light set up behind them at the beginning of the path, which an angel told me was the midnight cry. This light shone all along the path and gave light for their feet so that they might not stumble. If they kept their eyes fixed on Jesus, who was just before them, leading them to the city, they were safe. But soon some grew weary, and said the city was a great way off, and they expected to have entered it before. Then Jesus would encourage them by raising His glorious right arm, and from His arm came a light which waved over the Advent band, and they shouted, "Alleluia!" Others rashly denied the light behind them and said that it was not God that had led them out so far. The light behind them went out, leaving their feet in perfect darkness, and they stumbled and lost sight of the mark and of Jesus, and fell off the path down into the dark and wicked world below.” EW 14-15
The Midnight Cry:
“And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.” Matthew 25:6.
This was the midnight cry, which was to give power to the second angel's message. Angels were sent from heaven to arouse the discouraged saints and prepare them for the great work before them. The most talented men were not the first to receive this message. Angels were sent to the humble, devoted ones, and constrained them to raise the cry, "Behold, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet Him!" Those entrusted with the cry made haste, and in the power of the Holy Spirit sounded the message, and aroused their discouraged brethren. This work did not stand in the wisdom and learning of men, but in the power of God, and His saints who heard the cry could not resist it. The most spiritual received this message first, and those who had formerly led in the work were the last to receive and help swell the cry, "Behold, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet Him!"
In every part of the land, light was given upon the second angel's message, and the cry melted the hearts of thousands. It went from city to city, and from village to village, until the waiting people of God were fully aroused. In many churches the message was not permitted to be given, and a large company who had the living testimony left these fallen churches. A mighty work was accomplished by the midnight cry. The message was heart-searching, leading the believers to seek a living experience for themselves. They knew that they could not lean upon one another. -- EW 238.
Two years after the Great Disappointment only about 50 proved faithful to God when their faith was tested and tried
“At first only a few were identified with this group who were moving forward in advancing light. By the year 1846 they reckoned their numbers as about fifty.” EW XVII.
In that same year, E.G. White and others began to observe the Bible Sabbath.
“In the autumn of 1846 we began to observe the Bible Sabbath, and to teach and defend it. My attention was first called to the Sabbath while I was on a visit to New Bedford, Massachusetts, earlier in the same year. 1T 75-76.
“The mighty shaking has commenced and will go on, and all will be shaken out who are not willing to take a bold and unyielding stand for the truth and to sacrifice for God and His cause.” EW 50.
“I asked the meaning of the shaking I had seen and was shown that it would be caused by the straight testimony called forth by the counsel of the True Witness to the Laodiceans. This will have its effect upon the heart of the receiver, and will lead him to exalt the standard and pour forth the straight truth. Some will not bear this straight testimony. They will rise up against it, and this is what will cause a shaking among God's people. “I saw that the testimony of the True Witness has not been half heeded. The solemn testimony upon which the destiny of the church hangs has been lightly esteemed, if not entirely disregarded. This testimony must work deep repentance; all who truly receive it will obey it and be purified.” EW 270.
The shaking had begun in 1850, and was caused by the straight testimony of testing truth being poured forth upon God’s people by His messengers. Thus, some church members were shaken out from the truth (NOT from the church as church leaders always say) but by rejecting the truth and rising up against it and those who preached it.
”The closer we come to Christ, the nearer we shall be to one another.”
The cause of division and discord in families and in the church is separation from Christ. To come near to Christ is to come near to one another. The secret of true unity in the church and in the family is not diplomacy, not management, not a superhuman effort to overcome difficulties—though there will be much of this to do—but union with Christ. Picture a large circle, from the edge of which are many lines all running to the center. The nearer these lines approach the center, the nearer they are to one another. Thus it is in the Christian life. The closer we come to Christ, the nearer we shall be to one another. God is glorified as His people unite in harmonious action. – AH 179.
“A strong plea for “Gospel Order” (that is, church organization based on NT model) was made by Ellen G. White in the fall of 1853 (Published in 1854; see EW 97-101).” SDAE 1043.
“I saw that this door at which the enemy comes in to perplex and trouble the flock can be shut. I inquired of the angel how it could be closed. He said, "The church must flee to God's Word and become established upon gospel order, which has been overlooked and neglected." This is indispensably necessary in order to bring the church into the unity of the faith. -- EW 100.
“The organization of the church at Jerusalem (Apostolic Church) was to serve as a model for the organization of churches in every other place where messengers of truth should win converts to the gospel.” – AA 91
Pride of Dress and Appearance
“I saw that God's people are on the enchanted ground, and that some have lost nearly all sense of the shortness of time and the worth of the soul. Pride has crept in among Sabbathkeepers-pride of dress and appearance. Said the angel, "Sabbathkeepers will have to die to self, die to pride and love of approbation." – EW 120.
“Ye Have Done Worse Than They.”
“Then I was pointed back to the years 1843 and 1844. There was a spirit of consecration then that there is not now. What has come over the professed peculiar people of God? I saw the conformity to the world, the unwillingness to suffer for the truth's sake. I saw a great lack of submission to the will of God…”
“I saw that many who profess to believe the truth for these last days think it strange that the children of Israel murmured as they journeyed; that after the wonderful dealings of God with them, they should be so ungrateful as to forget what He had done for them. Said the angel: "Ye have done worse than they." -- 1T 128- 129.
A Disgrace to the Cause of God
“I was shown the conformity of some professed Sabbathkeepers to the world. Oh, I saw that it is a disgrace to their profession, a disgrace to the cause of God. They give the lie to their profession. They think they are not like the world, but they are so near like them in dress, in conversation, and actions, that there is no distinction…” “As I saw the dreadful fact that God's people were conformed to the world, with no distinction, except in name, between many of the professed disciples of the meek and lowly Jesus and unbelievers, my soul felt deep anguish. I saw that Jesus was wounded and put to an open shame. Said the angel, as with sorrow he saw the professed people of God loving the world, partaking of its spirit, and following its fashions: "Cut loose! Cut loose! lest He appoint you your portion with hypocrites and unbelievers outside the city. Your profession will only cause you greater anguish, and your punishment will be greater because ye knew His will, but did it not." 1T131, 133.
The previous Testimonies borne for the church should have humble them, set their hearts in order, and cut loose from the world. Warnings unheeded, the Church was getting worse. A year later, E.G. White saw in vision the present state of the church.
“Dear Brethren and Sisters: The Lord has shown me in vision some things concerning the church in its present lukewarm state, which I will relate to you. The church was presented before me in vision. Said the angel to the church: "Jesus speaks to thee, 'Be zealous and repent.'" This work, I saw, should be taken hold of in earnest. There is something to repent of. Worldly-mindedness, selfishness, and covetousness have been eating out the spirituality and life of God's people.
“The danger of God's people for a few years past has been the love of the world. Out of this have sprung the sins of selfishness and covetousness. The more they get of this world, the more they set their affections on it; and still they reach out for more. Said the angel: "It is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." Yet many who profess to believe that we are having the last note of warning to the world, are striving with all their energies to place themselves in a position where it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye than for them to enter the kingdom…” - 1T 141.
“Buy Gold Tried in the Fire”
“I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.” Revelation 3:18.
“Heed the counsel of the True Witness. Buy gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich, white raiment that thou mayest be clothed, and eyesalve that thou mayest see. Make some effort. These precious treasures will not drop upon us without some exertion on our part. We must buy*--"be zealous and repent" of our lukewarm state. We must be awake to see our wrongs, to search for our sins, and to zealously repent of them.” -- 1T 142.
*“The purchase which Christ recommends to us is only complying with the conditions He has given us. True grace, which is of inestimable value, and which will endure the test of trial and adversity, is only obtained through faith and humble, prayerful obedience. Graces that endure the proofs of affliction and persecution, and evidence their soundness and sincerity, are the gold which is tried in the fire and found genuine. Christ offers to sell this precious treasure to man: “Buy of Me god tried in the fire.” The dead, heartless performance of duty does not make us Christians. We must get out of a lukewarm condition and experience a true conversion, or we shall fail of heave. -- 4T 89.
God’s Plea to His Church:
“After all our lukewarmness and sins He says: "Return unto Me, and I will return unto thee, and will heal all thy backslidings." This was repeated by the angel a number of times. "Return unto Me, and I will return unto thee, and will heal all thy backslidings."
“Some, I saw, would gladly return. Others will not let this message to the Laodicean church have its weight upon them. They will glide along, much after the same manner as before, and will be spewed out of the mouth of the Lord*. Those only who zealously repent will have favor with God. -- 1T 143-144.
God’s Warning to His Church:
“So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:16.
“The figure of spewing out of His mouth means that He cannot offer up your prayers or your expressions of love to God. He cannot endorse your teaching of His word or your spiritual work in anywise. He cannot present your religious exercises with the request that grace be given you.” -- 6T 408.
But the people of God continued on their backsliding course. Two years later, another testimony was given to the church.
“I was shown that the testimony to the Laodiceans applies to God's people at the present time, and the reason it has not accomplished a greater work is because of the hardness of their hearts. But God has given the message time to do its work. The heart must be purified from sins which have so long shut out Jesus. This fearful message will do its work. When it was first presented, it led to close examination of heart. Sins were confessed, and the people of God were stirred everywhere. Nearly all believed that this message would end in the loud cry of the third angel. But as they failed to see the powerful work accomplished in a short time, many lost the effect of the message. I saw that this message would not accomplish its work in a few short months. It is designed to arouse the people of God, to discover to them their backslidings, and to lead to zealous repentance, that they may be favored with the presence of Jesus, and be fitted for the loud cry of the third angel. As this message affected the heart, it led to deep humility before God. Angels were sent in every direction to prepare unbelieving hearts for the truth. The cause of God began to rise, and His people were acquainted with their position. If the counsel of the True Witness had been fully heeded, God would have wrought for His people in greater power. Yet the efforts made since the message has been given, have been blessed of God, and many souls have been brought from error and darkness to rejoice in the truth.” -- 1T 186.
“The church is in the Laodicean state. The presence of God is not in her midst… Abridge the work, limit your labors, and you remove your Helper. .. What a terrible thing it is to exclude Christ from His own temple! What a loss to the church!” -- 1NL 99.
Proclaim the Three Angel’s Messages
“In a special sense Seventh-day Adventists have been set in the world as watchmen and light bearers. To them has been entrusted the last warning for a perishing world. On them is shining wonderful light from the word of God. They have been given a work of the most solemn import--the proclamation of the first, second, and third angels' messages. There is no other work of so great importance. They are to allow nothing else to absorb their attention. “—9T 19.
The SDA church continued in her Laodicean state; and became unfitted to proclaim the Loud Cry of the third angel.
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