From Martin To Miller

The Peters PresentsFrom Martin to Miller – The Protestant Path from Martin Luther to William Miller and beyond.

Let’s take a look at the protestant movement from the very beginning and see where we have come from and where we are going:

MARTIN LUTHER (1483-1546) — THE BIRTH OF THE LUTHERAN MOVEMENT, 1400-1500’s

Martin Luther was “zealous, ardent, and devoted, knowing no fear but the fear of God, and acknowledging no foundation for religious faith but The Holy Scriptures” (White, 1888, chpt. 7) [*]. He is known as the Father of the Reformation. This faithful Catholic monk sought to earn salvation through works and afflictions, but with the help of a friend named Staupitz, who explained that he did not need to punish himself to atone for his sins, and that Christ’s death was sufficient, he started to receive peace. It wasn’t until Luther was faithfully climbing what was called ‘Pilate’s Staircase’ for his sins, he heard a voice clearly say to him ‘The Just Shall Live by Faith‘ (Romans 1:17). He hurriedly prostrated himself and left the site ashamed. That scripture became the main text of his life and his teachings.

After receiving his degree at the University of Wittenberg, he was finally free to study the scriptures for himself. Luther met error head-on when fellow monk, Johann Tetzel, was sent to Germany to sell indulgences to the people (as defined in the Baltimore Catholic Catechism: an indulgence is the forgiveness of the punishment due to sin through the application of the superabundant merits of Christ and of the saints [1]). Luther tried to explain that this teaching was erroneous, but the people still believed Tetzel and kept purchasing them. Luther sought to formally debate this topic with church officials and so, he posted 95 propositions (or theses) against the doctrine of indulgences on the door of the Castle church [2]. The date was October 31st 1517, and the flames of the reformation were kindled! After becoming an enemy of the church he once loved, in the following years, Luther translated the bible in the German language. Because the printing press had just been invented, Bibles could be printed and shared with the people. No longer did society had to depend on their priests to tell them what the scriptures said; they could read and study for themselves. As The LORD revealed truth to Luther and many after him, the path of Protestantism continued from that point onward.

The Lutheran movement began around 1521, after The Roman Catholic church banned him and his supporters with The Edict (or decree) of Worms. Luther’s supporters were called Lutheran as a derogatory term (starting in 1519), but they preferred to be called ‘Evangelicals’. After the Diet (or assembly) of Speyer in Germany helped states manage their own religious affairs in 1529 [3], Luther’s followers became known as Protestants. Eventually, the movement became known as Evangelical Lutherans [4]. In the following years, Lutheran churches were established in Sweden, Hungary and other European countries, and the American Lutheran church was established in the 17th century. Lutheranism advocated justification “by grace alone through faith alone on the basis of scripture alone” [5], but the reformation didn’t end there, and more light was soon to be poured upon another upholder of truth.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564) — THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH MOVEMENT, 1500’s

John Calvin was a French theologian and reformer who broke from the Catholic church around 1530. He took the truths that were manifested by Luther and ultimately ‘reformed’ them further [6]. He was also a devout Christian apologetic and developed theology that was later called Calvinism by Lutherans who opposed it. He paved the way for the Presbyterian movement. Many within the tradition preferred to be called ‘Reformed’ instead [7], so when Presbyterian churches were established, they were also called Reformed churches. While Lutheranism was in Germany and the Scandinavian countries, Calvinism (or Presbyterianism) was more widespread: it was found in France, Scotland, England, Central Europe and the Netherlands [8]. The church got its name from the Greek word for ‘Elder’ in the Bible. The denomination advocates Bible-centeredness, election of grace (predestination), being constantly reformed, and the celebration of the Biblical sacraments of Baptism and The LORD’s supper [9]. The denomination is governed by elders, and their congregants elects their church’s officials to lead out. The first Presbyterian church in the U.S. was formed in the 17th century in Pennsylvania, and the U.S. government was actually modeled after this mold [10].

“For nearly thirty years Calvin labored at Geneva, first to establish there a church adhering to the morality of the Bible, and then for the advancement of the Reformation throughout Europe. His course as a public leader was not faultless, nor were his doctrines free from error. But he was instrumental in promulgating truths that were of special importance in his time, in maintaining the principles of Protestantism against the fast-returning tide of popery, and in promoting in the reformed churches simplicity and purity of life, in place of the pride and corruption fostered under the Romish teaching” (White, 1888, chpt 12) [11].
But the reformation did not stop there…

JOHN SMYTH/ ROGER WILLIAMS — THE BAPTIST CHURCH MOVEMENT, 1600’s

John Smyth (1570-1612) was an ordained Anglican minister who renounced Anglicanism and in 1606 and became a Separatist leader (a separatist is someone or a group from the 16th/17th century that separated from the Church of England to form their own churches due to perceived corruption). He is generally accepted as the founder of the Baptist Church in England. Initially, the movement was deemed illegal and suffered persecution. Because of this, many left for other countries and one such group, the pilgrims, ended up in Plymouth, Massachusetts [12].

Roger Williams (1603-1683+/-) was born in London around 1603. Once he migrated to America, he established the first Baptist church in 1638 in Providence, Rhode Island [13]. He was a staunch advocate of the separation between the church and the state, and religious tolerance. He too was a separatist and was attracted to Baptist principles for a little while, but ultimately said Christ’s true church couldn’t be known until the LORD Himself returns and reveals it to them [14].

Roger Williams also declared it to be the duty of Magistrates to restrain crime but never to control conscience.

“The public or the magistrates may decide,” he said, “what is due from man to man; but when they attempt to prescribe a man’s duties to God, they are out of place, and there can be no safety; for it is clear that if the magistrate has the power, he may decree one set of opinions or beliefs today and another tomorrow; as has been done in England by different kings and queens, and by different popes and councils in the Roman Church; so that belief would become a heap of confusion.” (White, 1888, chpt 16) [15]

Williams’ belief in separation of church and state was so influential that it became a part of this Great Nation’s Constitution.

John Robinson (1576–1625) was the pastor of the “Pilgrim Fathers” before they left on the Mayflower. He became one of the early leaders of the English Separatists and is regarded (along with Robert Browne) as one of the founders of the Congregational Church. In his farewell address he spoke these enduring words:

“If God should reveal anything to you by any other instrument of His, be as ready to receive it as ever you were to receive any truth of my ministry; for I am very confident the Lord hath more truth and light yet to break forth out of His holy word…” (White, 1888, chpt 16) [15]

“The Lutherans cannot be drawn to go beyond what Luther saw; … and the Calvinists, you see, stick fast where they were left by that great man of God, who yet saw not all things. This is a misery much to be lamented; for though they were burning and shining lights in their time, yet they penetrated not into the whole counsel of God, but were they now living, would be as willing to embrace further light as that which they first received.” (White, 1888, chpt 16) [15]

“Remember your church covenant, in which you have agreed to walk in all the ways of the Lord, made or to be made known unto you. Remember your promise and covenant with God and with one another, to receive whatever light and truth shall be made known to you from His written word; but withal, take heed, I beseech you, what you receive for truth, and compare it and weigh it with other scriptures of truth before you accept it; for it is not possible the Christian world should come so lately out of such thick anti-christian darkness, and that full perfection of knowledge should break forth at once.”  (White, 1888, chpt 16) [15]

This principle was mutually agreed upon by both Robinson and Williams but it was one that was sadly lost by their descendants.
But the reformation did not stop there…

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791), CHARLES WESLEY (1707-1788) AND GEORGE WHITEFIELD (1714-1770) — THE METHODIST MOVEMENT, 1700’s

The Methodists initially sought to reform the Anglican Church (The Church of England), but the movement departed from that path. Wesleyanism or Methodism is named after its founders: John and Charles Wesley. Having “religious experiences” in the early 1700s, they sought to organize a movement within the Anglican Church that focused on personal faith and holiness. With God’s guidance, they succeeded. When the church crossed the Atlantic Ocean, it became the Methodist Episcopal Church in America in 1784. These churches, having come out of Anglicanism, were similar to their mother church, but focused more strongly on personal faith and experience. They are named ‘Methodist’ for their [16] methodical devotion and study [17].

Methodism emphasizes doctrines that shows the transforming power of The Holy Spirit in Christian Perfection: John Wesley advocated that every believer should strive for this perfection and it could be attained with The Holy Spirit. They also advocate caring for the sick and the afflicted through works of mercy. Hymn singing is an important part of Methodism [18]. Charles Wesley published over 4000 songs [19], many of which are still in church hymnals around the world. George Whitefield also preferred unscripted prayers done in services, instead of using the ‘Book of Prayers’ that their former church used, and he also stressed the importance of the New Birth. John Wesley and his friend George Whitefield initially worked together, but they then separated due to differences in regards to the doctrine of predestination: Whitefield believed in a double predestination, but Wesley thought the doctrine was inaccurate and that God loves was universal to all [20].
But the reformation did not stop there…

BELIEVERS FROM DIFFERENT DENOMINATIONS — THE SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST MOVEMENT, 1800’s

One of the most precious truths of the Bible is of the Second coming of The LORD. For a time, these different denominations continued to proclaim His Second coming, and the signs in the sun, moon and stars confirmed the signs The LORD mentioned that would precede His return, but “as the spirit of humility and devotion in the church had given place to pride and formalism, love of Christ and faith in His coming had grown cold. Absorbed in worldliness and pleasure seeking, the professed people of God were blinded by The Savior’s instructions concerning the signs of His appearing… especially was this the case in the churches of America” (White, 1888, chpt 17) [21]. The church was ripe for a revival.

And so The LORD raised an upright farmer to ‘Go tell The World.’ With the message of the Coming LORD, William Miller drew many different stalwarts together from different denominations:

— John Waggoner came from a Baptist background (along with William Miller in later years)
— Ellen Harmon, The Harmon Family, and Hiram Edson came from The Methodist church
— James White, Charles Fitch, Captain Joseph Bates and Joshua Himes were from The Christian Church
— Josiah Litch was from The Methodist Episcopal Church
— And Samuel Snow was from The Congregational Church [22]

After great disappointment and the earnest desire to seek The LORD more, these different individuals united under a new name and a new movement: The Seventh day Adventist Church.

But the Reformation does not stop here and contrary to popular belief: The Protest Continues …

“But the path of the just is as the shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day” Proverbs 4:18.

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REFERENCES:

[*]  White, E.G. (1888). The Great Controversy, Chpt 7. Retrieved from http://whiteestate.org/books/gc/gc7.html
[1] Retrieved from The Baltimore Catechism of Christian Doctrine: http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/14551/pg14551-images.html
[2] Retrieved from https://www.history.com/topics/reformation/martin-luther-and-the-95-theses
[3] Retrieved from Lutheran Cyclopedia – http://cyclopedia.lcms.org/display.asp?t1=s&word=SPEYER.DIETSOF
[4] Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/Lutheranism
[5] Retrieved from first paragraphs of article on Lutheranism – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lutheranism
[6] Retrieved from The Faith Presbyterian Church History Page: http://www.scfaith.org/history/
[7] Retrieved from first paragraphs on Calvinism page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calvinism
[8] Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/Calvinism
[9] Retrieved again from The Faith Presbyterian church history page: http://www.scfaith.org/history/
[10] Retrieved from The Faith Presbyterian Church History page: http://www.scfaith.org/history/
[11] White, E.G. (1888). The Great Controversy, Chpt 12. Retrieved from http://whiteestate.org/books/gc/gc12.html
[12] Retrieved on Smyth – https://www.britannica.com/biography/John-Smyth
[13] and [14] Both references retrieved from http://www.history.com/topics/roger-williams
[15] White, E.G. (1888). The Great Controversy, Chpt 16. Retrieved from http://www.whiteestate.org/books/gc/gc16.html
[16] Retrieved from http://wesley.nnu.edu/what-is-wesleyanism/
[17] Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/Methodism
[18] Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/Methodism
[19] Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Charles-Wesley
[20] Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/Methodism
[21] White, E.G. (1888). The Great Controversy, Chpt 17. Retrieved from http://www.whiteestate.org/books/gc/gc17.html
[22] Retrieved from a downloaded book, ARISE-Adventist History (PDF format)