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Lessons from the Reformation

Posted Jan 14, 2016 by John Penman in Midnight Cry (Loud Voice)
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Lessons from the Reformation

In the book, The Great Controversy the journey of Luther captures my thoughts like no other. As I read the brave battle he fought in the cause of truth against papal dogma and superstition the following statement really hit home to me.

 The opposition of the pope and the emperor had not caused him so great perplexity and distress as he now experienced. From the professed friends of the Reformation had risen its worst enemies. The very truths which had brought him so great joy and consolation were being employed to stir up strife and create confusion in the church. GC88 187.4

Many of us who have studied the rise of the advent movement since the days of William Miller find ourselves part of this continued reformation. We are also to restore the truths given to God's people. The identity of who God is must surely be the most vital foundational truth to establish. Our early pioneers were united in worshiping the one true God and His only begotten Son. But what about other aspects that were established? We need to latch on to a complete system of truth.

Ellen G White’s first vision has had a strong impact on me. I constantly use it as a reference point when considering what other people are proclaiming as present truth. As a reminder here is that vision.


In Ellen White's first vision she was shown a narrow path on which God's people were traveling to heaven.

In Ellen White's first vision she was shown a narrow path on which God's people were traveling to heaven.

Illustration © Review and Herald Publ. Assoc.

“As God has shown me the travels of the Advent [14] people to the Holy City and the rich reward to be given those who wait the return of their Lord from the wedding, it may be my duty to give you a short sketch of what God has revealed to me. The dear saints have many trials to pass through. But our light afflictions, which are but for a moment, will work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory—while we look not at the things which are seen, for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal…..   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 [15] 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”. 

It makes me shudder at the thought of working in opposition to the light given to our pioneers following the 1844 disappointment. If that light given was a complete system of truth and an immovable platform then not one of these foundational truths can be changed without consequences. If we liken this light given as a ship and the foundational truths as the rudder then tampering with any of them in any degree will alter the course of the ship. Consider again this statement from the Great Controversy and how this is being repeated.

"The opposition of the pope and the emperor had not caused him so great perplexity and distress as he now experienced. From the professed friends of the Reformation had risen its worst enemies. The very truths which had brought him so great joy and consolation were being employed to stir up strife and create confusion in the church."GC88 187.4

Satan’s favourite tactic is to cause confusion and argument. The Advent movement was under attack right from its rising. One of many areas that come to mind where confusion took a foothold was that over the old and new covenants. I would rather call it the everlasting covenant. Mrs White confirmed the view of Waggoner on the covenant issue with these conclusive statements.

 “Night before last I was shown that evidences in regard to the covenants were clear and convincing.  Yourself and…others are spending your investigative powers for naught to produce a position on the covenants to vary from the position that Brother Waggoner has presented. Had you received the true light which shineth you would not have imitated or gone over the same manner of interpretation and misconstruing the Scriptures as did the Jews… The covenant question is a clear question and would be received by every candid, unprejudiced mind, but I was brought where the Lord gave me an insight into this matter. You have turned from plain light…” (Ellen White, Letter to Uriah Smith, March 8, 1890)

“Now I tell you here before God, that the covenant question, as it has been presented, is the truth.” (E. G. White, Sermon, March 8, 1890, Battle Creek.)

I have studied to the best of my ability the dispensational view of the covenants versus the everlasting covenant and concluded that one is forced to adopt two entirely different gospels. It is a very serious issue and the same could be said for every pillar of faith because it must invariably send you off the narrow path.

While it is good to look at other people’s studies on topics there are also inherent dangers.  If we hold someone in high regard then there could be a tendency to assume all they put forward is truth. Likewise If I have even a trace of prejudice against a brother then I may subconsciously close my mind on many things that brother presents and in doing so I may be shutting the door to light also. This happened to some of our pioneers who resisted light given to Jones and Waggoner. Ultimately we test everything by scripture.

2Ti 2:15  Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Mat 13:44  Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.

 I would like to finish this section with the following:

Let none seek to tear away the foundations of our faith—the foundations that were laid at the beginning of our work by prayerful study of the word and by revelation. Upon these foundations we have been building for the last fifty years. Men may suppose that they have found a new way and that they can lay a stronger foundation than that which has been laid. But this is a great deception. Other foundation can no man lay than that which has been laid. {8T 297.1}

I would like to change gears a bit now and look at another extremely important underlying principle of the reformation during Luther’s time.

“Let there be no compulsion. I have been laboring for liberty of conscience. Liberty is of the very essence of faith.” GC88 189.2

Did you catch that? Liberty is of the very essence of faith. I hope I can learn from this in my dealings with my family and others. Here is another gem of truth.

“We have a right to speak, but none whatever to compel. Let us preach; the rest belongs to God. If I resort to force, what shall I gain? Grimace, fair appearances, cramped uniformity, and hypocrisy. But there will be no hearty sincerity, no faith, no love. Where these are wanting, all is wanting, and I would not give a straw for such a victory. God does more by the simple power of his Word than you and I and the whole world could effect by all our efforts put together. God arrests the heart, and that once taken, all is won.” GC88 189.4

God arrests the heart, and that once taken, all is won.

All the foundational pillars or our faith when correctly understood “arrest the heart”. It changes us from within. This is why it’s worth fighting for because the uplifted Saviour and our loving Father want to take us home. Is this message that captures the heart being proclaimed again? I believe it is in many messages and I pray for that light of truth to grow brighter for this world.

In closing I would like to leave you with two more thoughts of that faithful reformer Martin Luther who lived up to the light he was given.

“He had been but the instrument in the hand of infinite power. Yet he often trembled for the result of his work. He had once said, “If I knew that my doctrine had injured one human being, however poor and unknown,—which it could not, for it is the very gospel,—I would rather face death ten times over than not retract it.” GC88 187.5

“I wish to be in fellowship with the humble, the feeble, the sick, who know and feel their sins, and who sigh and cry continually to God from the bottom of their hearts to obtain his consolation and support.” GC88 190.4

Psa 85:10  Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

May we continue to walk together on that narrow pathway described in the first vision of Ellen G White. Amen.