The midnight cry was a powerful message when it went like a tidal wave through the land. The very urgency of it - resulted in decisions for and against it.
The result was a revealing of many hearts. Unfortunately, many preferred the world more than they wanted Christ.
"While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps." Matthew 25:5-7.
In the summer of 1844, Adventists discovered the mistake in their former reckoning of the prophetic periods, and settled upon the correct position. The 2300 days of Daniel 8:14, which all believed to extend to the second coming of Christ, had been thought to end in the spring of 1844; but it was now seen that this period extended to the autumn of the same year, and the minds of Adventists were fixed upon this point as the time for the Lord's appearing. The proclamation of this time message was another step in the fulfillment of the parable of the marriage, whose application to the experience of Adventists had already been clearly seen. As in the parable the cry was raised at midnight announcing the approach of the bridegroom, so in the fulfillment, midway between the spring of 1844, when it was first supposed that the 2300 days would close, and the autumn of 1844, at which time it was afterward found that they were really to close, such a cry was raised, in the very words of Scripture: "Behold, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him."
Like a tidal wave the movement swept over the land. From city to city, from village to village, and into remote country places it went, until the waiting people of God were fully aroused. Before this proclamation, fanaticism disappeared, like early frost before the rising sun. Believers once more found their position, and hope and courage animated their hearts. The work was free from those extremes which are ever manifested when there is human excitement without the controlling influence of the word and Spirit of God. It was similar in character to those seasons of humiliation and returning unto the Lord which among ancient Israel followed messages of reproof from his servants. It bore the characteristics which mark the work of God in every age. There was little ecstatic joy, but rather deep searching of heart, confession of sin, and forsaking of the world. A preparation to meet the Lord was the burden of agonizing spirits. There was persevering prayer, and unreserved consecration to God.
Said William Miller, in describing that work: "There is no great expression of joy; that is, as it were, suppressed for a future occasion, when all Heaven and earth will rejoice together with joy unspeakable and full of glory. There is no shouting; that, too, is reserved for the shout from Heaven. The singers are silent; they are waiting to join the angelic hosts, the choir from Heaven. No arguments are used or needed; all seem convinced that they have the truth. There is no clashing of sentiments; all are of one heart and of one mind."
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 forty 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.
At the call, "The Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him," the waiting ones "arose and trimmed their lamps:" they studied the word of God with an intensity of interest before unknown. Angels were sent from Heaven to arouse those who had become discouraged, and prepare them to receive the message. The work did not stand in the wisdom and learning of men, but in the power of God. It was not the most talented, but the most humble and devoted, who were the first to hear and obey the call. Farmers left their crops standing in the fields, mechanics laid down their tools, and with tears and rejoicing went out to give the warning. Those who had formerly led in the cause were among the last to join in this movement. The churches in general closed their doors against it, and a large company who had the living testimony withdrew from their connection. In the providence of God, this cry united with the second angel's message, and gave power to that work.
The midnight cry was not so much carried by argument, though the Scripture proof was clear and conclusive. There went with it an impelling power that moved the soul. There was no doubt, no questioning. Upon the occasion of Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the people who were assembled from all parts of the land to keep the feast, flocked to the Mount of Olives, and as they joined the throng that were escorting Jesus, they caught the inspiration of the hour, and helped to swell the shout, "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord!" Matthew 21:9. In like manner did unbelievers who flocked to the Adventist meetings - some from curiosity, some merely to ridicule - feel the convincing power attending the message, "Behold, the Bridegroom cometh!"
At that time there was faith that brought answers to prayer, - faith that had respect to the recompense of reward. Like showers of rain upon the thirsty earth, the Spirit of grace descended upon the earnest seekers. Those who expected soon to stand face to face with their Redeemer felt a solemn joy that was unutterable. The softening, subduing power of the Holy Spirit melted the heart, as wave after wave of the glory of God swept over the faithful, believing ones.
Carefully and solemnly those who received the message came up to the time when they hoped to meet their Lord. Every morning they felt that it was their first duty to secure the evidence of their acceptance with God. Their hearts were closely united, and they prayed much with and for one another. They often met together in secluded places to commune with God, and the voice of intercession ascended to Heaven from the fields and groves. The assurance of the Savior's approval was more necessary to them than their daily food, and if a cloud darkened their minds, they did not rest until it was swept away. As they felt the witness of pardoning grace, they longed to behold Him whom their souls loved.
But again they were destined to disappointment. The time of expectation passed, and their Savior did not appear. With unwavering confidence they had looked forward to His coming, and now they felt as did Mary, when, coming to the Savior's tomb and finding it empty, she exclaimed with weeping, "They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him." John 20:13.
A feeling of awe, a fear that the message might be true, had for a time served as a restraint upon the unbelieving world. After the passing of the time, this did not at once disappear; they dared not triumph over the disappointed ones; but as no tokens of God's wrath were seen, they recovered from their fears, and resumed their reproach and ridicule. A large class who had professed to believe in the Lord's soon coming, renounced their faith. Some who had been very confident were so deeply wounded in their pride that they felt like fleeing from the world. Like Jonah, they complained of God, and chose death rather than life. Those who had based their faith upon the opinions of others, and not upon the word of God, were now as ready to again exchange their views. The scoffers won the weak and cowardly to their ranks, and all united in declaring that there could be no more fears or expectations now. The time had passed, the Lord had not come, and the world might remain the same for thousands of years.
The earnest, sincere believers had given up all for Christ, and had shared His presence as never before. They had, as they believed, given their last warning to the world, and, expecting soon to be received into the society of their divine Master and the heavenly angels, they had, to a great extent, withdrawn from the unbelieving multitude. With intense desire they had prayed. "Come, Lord Jesus and come quickly." But He had not come. And now to take up again the heavy burden of life's cares and perplexities, and to endure the taunts and sneers of a scoffing world, was indeed a terrible trial of faith and patience.
Yet this disappointment was not so great as was that experienced by the disciples at the time of Christ's first advent. When Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem, His followers believed that He was about to ascend to the throne of David, and deliver Israel from her oppessors. With high hopes and joyful anticipations they vied with one another in showing honor to their King. Many spread their outer garments as a carpet in His path, or strewed before Him the leafy branches of the palm. In their enthusiastic joy they united in the glad acclaim, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" When the Pharisees, disturbed and angered by this outburst of rejoicing, wished Jesus to rebuke His disciples, He replied, "if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out." Luke 19:40. Prophecy must be fulfilled. The disciples were accomplishing the purpose of God; yet they were doomed to a bitter disappointment. But a few days had passed ere they witnessed the Savior's agonizing death, and laid Him in the tomb. Their expectations had not been realized in a single particular, and their hopes died with Jesus. Not till their Lord had come forth triumphant from the grave could they perceive that all had been foretold by prophecy, and "that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead." Acts 17:3. In like manner was prophecy fulfilled in the first and second angels' messages. They were given at the right time, and accomplished the work which God designed to accomplish by them.
The world had been looking on, expecting that if the time passed and Christ did not appear, the whole system of Adventism would be given up. But while many, under strong temptation, yielded their faith, there were some who stood firm. They could detect no error in their reckoning of the prophetic periods. The ablest of their opponents had not succeeded in overthrowing their position. True, there had been a failure as to the expected event, but even this could not shake their faith in the word of God. When Jonah proclaimed in the streets of Nineveh that within forty days the city would be overthrown, the Lord accepted the humiliation of the Ninevites and extended their period of probation; yet the message of Jonah was sent of God, and Nineveh was tested according to His will. Adventists believed that God had in like manner led them to warn the world of the coming Judgment, and notwithstanding their disappointment, they felt assured that they had reached a most important crisis.
The parable of the wicked servant was regarded as applying to those who desired to put off the coming of the Lord: "If that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to smite his fellow-servants and to eat and drink with the drunken; the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites." Matthew 24:48-51.
The feelings of those who held fast the Advent truth are expressed in the words of William Miller: "Were I to live my life over again, with the same evidence that I then had, to be honest with God and men I should have to do as I have done." "I hope I have cleansed my garments from the blood of souls; I feel that, as far as possible, I have freed myself from all guilt in their condemnation." "Although I have been twice disappointed," wrote this man of God, "I am not yet cast down or discouraged." "My hope in the coming of Christ is as strong as ever. I have done only what, after years of sober consideration, I felt it my solemn duty to do. If I have erred, it has been on the side of charity, the love of my fellowman, and my conviction of duty to God." "One thing I do know. I have preached nothing but what I believed; and God's hand has been with me. His power has been manifested in the work, and much good has been effected." "Many thousands, to all human appearance, have been made to study the Scriptures by the preaching of the time; and by that means, through faith and the sprinkling of the blood of Christ, have been reconciled to God." "I have never courted the smiles of the proud, nor quailed when the world frowned. I shall not now purchase their favor, nor shall I go beyond duty to tempt their hate. I shall never seek my life at their hands, nor shrink, I hope, from losing it, if God in His good providence so orders."
God did not forsake His people; His Spirit still abode with those who did not rashly deny the light which they had received, and denounce the Advent movement. The apostle Paul, looking down through the ages, had written words of encouragement and warning for the tried, waiting ones at this crisis: "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 hack unto perdition, but of them that believe to the saving of the soul." Hebrews 10:35-39.
The people here addressed were in danger of making shipwreck of faith. They had done the will of God in following the guidance of His Spirit and His word; yet they could not understand His purpose in their past experience, nor could they discern the pathway before them, and they were tempted to doubt whether God had indeed been leading them. At this time the words were specially applicable, "Now the just shall live by faith." As the bright light of the midnight cry had shone upon their pathway, and they had seen the prophecies unsealed, and the rapidly fulfilling signs telling that the coming of Christ was near, Adventists had walked, as it were, by sight. But now, bowed down by disappointed hopes, they could stand only by faith in God and in His word. The scoffing world were saying, "You have been deceived. Give up your faith, and say that the Advent movement was of Satan." But God's word declared, "If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him." To renounce their faith now, and deny the power of the Holy Spirit which had attended the message, would be drawing back toward perdition. They were encouraged to steadfastness by the words of Paul. "Cast not away therefore your confidence;" "ye have need of patience;" "for yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry." Their only safe course was to cherish the light which they had already received of God, hold fast to His promises, and continue to search the Scriptures, and patiently wait and watch to receive further light.
CHAPTER SUPPLEMENT - OBEDIENCE BY FAITH
"Through whom [Christ] we received grace and apostleship, unto obedience of faith among all nations, for His name's sake". Romans 1:5, R.V.
"And being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him". Hebrews 5:9.
"By faith, Abraham, when he was called, obeyed". Hebrews 11:8, R.V.
"In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed My voice". Genesis 22:18.
"For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love". Galatians 5:6.
"For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed". Romans 15:18.
"To obey is batter than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams". 1.Samuel 15:22.
"Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ". 2.Corinthians 10:5.
"And He said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition". Mark 7:9.
"Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit". 1.Peter 1:22
"If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land". Isaiah 1:19.
"That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises". Hebrews 6:12.
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