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The year 1888 in SDA

The year 1888 is a year of significance for Seventh-day Adventists. In that year two young ministers brought a special message which contained the formula for revival to the church. Many believe that this message was never received by the SDA church. This tract looks briefly at the question of what was the essence of that message, and whether or not it was accepted by the church.

If you are a Seventh-day Adventist, you must have heard about the year 1888. This date is almost as important to Adventists as is the year 1844. It was the year of the most important General Conference session in the history of the church.

What was so important about this General Conference meeting, which took place in Minneapolis in the year 1888? God’s messenger, Ellen White, said that at this meeting God sent a special message to the church, by two young ministers, elders A.T. Jones and E.J. Waggoner. She stated concerning this message:

"The time of test is just upon us, for the loud cry of the third angel has already begun in the revelation of the righteousness of Christ, the sin-pardoning Redeemer: This is the beginning of the light of the angel whose glory shall fill the whole earth.." - Selected Messages – bk 1, p.363

Can you see what this means? Just think for a moment: This means that the whole key to the perfecting of God’s people and the finishing of the work, lies in this message, whatever it was. Yet, today, more than 100 years after 1888, we are still in this world and the work is just as far from completion as it was in 1888. The only conclusion that we can come to, is that the message was never accepted and received by the church! In the year 1892, the prophet wrote:

"The brethren were moved at this meeting by another spirit, and they knew not that God had sent these young men to bear a special message to them which they treated with ridicule and contempt, and I know that at that time the Spirit of God was insulted." - Letter S – Manuscript 24

The message and the messengers were not accepted in 1888. In fact, because Sister White supported the message, some began to even question whether or not she was really led of God. This message has never since been accepted by the church, and today it is no more likely to be accepted than it was in 1888. But the vital question is this:


Well, to put it simply, it was called the message of, "Righteousness by Faith," or, "Justification by Faith." To put it even more simply, Justification by Faith is the teaching that we are not, and we never can be saved by any of our own works, but only by the grace of God, through faith in Jesus. At every step of the Christian journey we must depend on Jesus. We can only overcome sin completely, if we depend on Him continually. Now, does that sound like a doctrine that any Seventh-day Adventist would reject? No! Of course not. And yet, the plain fact is that it has been rejected by the SDA church. The fact that we are still here on this earth 100 years after 1888, still praying for the latter rain, still hoping for the loud cry, tells us that this message was never accepted. It is clear that it has not been understood, and that there is some vital aspect of it which is being ignored. What is this key element of the message? Read the following statements and you will get a clear picture of what the message was all about:

"The righteousness of Christ by faith has been ignored by some, for it is contrary to their spirit and their whole life’s experience. Rule, rule, this has been their course of action." - TM – 363

"Now it has been Satan’s determined effort to eclipse the view of Jesus and lead man to look to man and trust to man, and be educated to expect help from man. For years the church has been looking to man and expecting much from man, but not looking to Jesus in whom our hopes of eternal life are centered. Therefore, God gave His servants (elders Jones and Waggoner) a testimony that presented the truth as it is in Jesus, which is the third angel’s message in clear distinct lines." - TM - 93

Can you see what the issue was? Do you believe the prophet? You see, if you place your whole trust and dependence in Jesus, it must mean that you will place none in man (Jer.17:5). It will mean that you will look to Jesus for guidance. You will receive your orders from Him, and not from man. Now look at the words which have been highlighted in the above quotation. Can you see that the whole issue is, "man versus Jesus"? It is a question of whether you worship God, or man. This is "the third angel’s message in clear distinct lines." A message which points people to Jesus, and away from men. Away from human authority and human control. Isn’t this the whole issue in the last great crisis? That men will obey men, rather than God, because they do not know Christ? " So she says that some cannot receive the message. Why? Because they love to rule! They want to take the authority which belongs to Jesus, and therefore they cannot accept a message which gives Jesus total control of the people. This is the real issue, and this is why the church leaders rejected the message in 1888, why they reject it today, and why they never will accept it! They want to rule. They want to control the people and to order every detail of the work. To tell people where to work, when to work, how to work, what to study, where and how to worship etc.,etc. Therefore they cannot, and will never accept the message of Justification by Faith.

Elder A.T. Jones kept preaching this message, and trying to get the people to accept it, but the church leaders opposed him all the way. They also tried to get Sister White out of the way by sending her to Australia. In Australia, she wrote:

"I have not, I think, revealed the entire workings that led me here to Australia. Perhaps you may never fully understand the matter. The Lord was not in our leaving America. He did not reveal that it was His will that I should leave Battle Creek. The Lord would have had W.C. White, his mother, and her workers remain in America ... There was so great a willingness to have us leave, that the Lord permitted this thing to take place. Those who were weary of the testimonies borne were left without the persons who bore them. Our separation from Battle Creek was to let men have their own will and way, which they thought superior to the way of the Lord ... It was not the Lord who devised this matter. I could not get one ray of light to leave America." - 1888 Materials, 1622, 1623

But if you read the books of A.T. Jones, you will see what the issues really were, in 1888. This is why, today, an effort is being made by the SDA church leadership to distort the events of 1888 as well as to tarnish the names of Jones and Waggoner.


Think for a moment; what were the greatest religious movements of the past? Pentecost? The Reformation? 1844? These are the ones which come quickly to our minds. Now notice carefully what I say: All of these movements were totally controlled by the Holy Spirit! They were not organized by human beings; they were not supervised by man. All the men and women who were in the forefront of these movements were called to the work by God. They were not paid to carry on a profession. The Spirit of God came upon them and they took hold of the work without waiting for any man’s approval. In every case, the established churches and the church leaders opposed them with all their might. The Holy Spirit testifies that this is how the work will be finished. This was the true message of 1888. The message that Christ is to be all to His people. Our salvation from sin, yes. Our guarantee of eternal life, yes. But more, He is also our victory from sin, right now, today! He is to be our life. He is to live in His people in such a living, real relationship that we each, personally receive our instructions from Him. That He may direct us individually without the message having to be first processed by passing through the channels of other human beings. This is what God is waiting for. For men and women who will listen to HIM ALONE. People who will cease from worshipping men, and giving them the honour which belongs to God alone.

Look at what God tells us about the final work which He will do on this earth:

"Let me tell you that the Lord will work in this last work in a manner very much out of the common order of things, and in a way that will be contrary to any human planning. . . God will use ways and means by which it will be seen that He is taking the reins in His own hands." - Testimonies to Ministers – 300

" Under the showers of the latter rain the inventions of man, the human machinery will at times be swept away, the boundary of man’s authority will be as broken reeds, and the Holy Spirit will speak through the living, human agent with convincing power." The workerswill cast off, "man’s binding rules and cautious movements" and will "join the army of the Lord." (Selected Messages book 2 – 58,59)

My dear brother or sister, if you are sincere in your desire to serve God, then I urge you to consider very seriously, the truth presented in this tract.


"The enemy of God and man is not willing that this truth (Justification by Faith) should be clearly presented; for he knows that if the people receive it fully, his power will be broken." -(Review and Herald – Sept. 2, 1889)

Can you see then, how Satan is able to hold people under his power? It is by getting them to submit to the control of other men. (If the blind lead the blind they both shall fall into a ditch - Matt. 15:14). When people receive the message that Christ alone is our King, then Satan’s power will be broken, for men will no longer put their trust in men or look to men (Jer. 17:5)

(Source: Restoration Ministry)

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