Seventh-day Adventism RENOUNCED by D.M. Canright


By Rev. Theo. Nelson. LL.D., late President of Kalamazoo College.

I met for the first time the author of "Adventism Renounced" in the autumn of 1865. He was then a rising young minister in high favor with his people. Then, as now, I had entire confidence in his sincerity. Nor do I think it strange that, after more than twenty years devoted to Seventh-Day Adventist propagandism, he should finally renounce their doctrines, and return to the orthodox faith. It is not necessary to impute any sinister or unworthy motives. Rather, it is easy enough to believe that experience and study, or the evolution of intelligence, as well as the irresistible logic of events, would inevitably bring to pass this result. Seventh-Day Adventists have always made a great deal of the "signs of the times," of earthquakes and falling stars, of "wars and rumors of wars." Arguments which might profoundly impress the imagination of a youth during the troubled period of our great civil war, would naturally lose their hold upon the riper judgment of a man in these "piping times of peace."

Toward the Seventh-Day Adventists as a people I cherish none but feelings of kindness. Generally, their piety is undoubtedly genuine, though misanthropic and melancholy. They take a low view of human nature, and practically isolate themselves from their neighbors, and from those affairs which concern the well-being of society as a whole. They stand aloof from every movement which looks to human progress, because they believe that human progress is impossible, and that mankind are already doomed; that destruction is impending, "even at the door." In fact, their religious faith restrains, if it does not destroy, their sentiment of patriotism, and causes them to regard with suspicion, if not with feelings of hostility, the free government under which they live. Nothing can be more absurd than their interpretations of current events, and, especially, their belief that our general and state governments are about to be converted into engines of religious persecution and despotism. It cannot be otherwise than that many sincere Seventh-Day Adventists, who have been such by what they believed the imperative necessity of Scripture teaching, will be grateful to Mr. Canright for aiding them to put off a yoke which fetters their usefulness and galls their minds.

Seventh-Day Adventists believe and teach that before the second coming of Christ the United States will form a union of church and state, and, like France and Spain in the seventeenth century, will become a persecuting power. They hold that the prophetic Scriptures clearly foretell this extraordinary change in the form and spirit of our government. Touching the correctness of the interpretations of Scripture upon which their expectations are based, they admit no possibility of mistake. They assume to know that they have the right key to prophecy - that they have the "Present truth." They believe and teach that the Seventh-Day Adventists are to be especially tried in this ordeal that is being prepared by the civil government; that they are to be the chief victims of the fiery persecutions that will be waged against the "Saints of the Most High"; that they are to suffer, at the hands of the secular power, imprisonments, tortures, "the spoiling of their goods," and perhaps death itself. Indeed, they stake their whole system of doctrine upon this meaning of the Word of God, and they regard these momentous events, which they claim the Bible forecasts, as much a reality as though those events had already transpired Those events are a reality to them and have the same value in argument, and the same authority in action, as history itself. In their publications and sermons they often adopt the style of the confessor who is already brought to the scaffold, or bound to the stake; they speak out in a tone of defiant, heroic submission, as though the fagots were being kindled and the crown of martyrdom were in full view. To one who is familiar with the history of religious persecutions, and has studied the progress and development of religious freedom, especially in Anglo-Saxon nations; to one who is fairly acquainted with the spirit of the age and country in which we live, this ostentatious martyr-spirit of our Adventist friends seems quite absurd. Were it not for their well known uprightness and probity of character, we should be disposed to challenge their belief, such is their eagerness to find its proof and confirmation in events which have no such meaning. Under our form of government would it be possible to achieve a more intimate and perfect union of "church and state" than is embodied in the government of monarchical English? Such a change would be a greater miracle than for God to grow a giant oak in an instant. The trend of our civilization, the most powerful currents of public opinion, are all in the opposite direction. Yet, even in England, Adventists are free to publish their peculiar doctrines, to establish churches, and to pursue their vocations like other men. Religious freedom is the spirit of the age, and, most of all, the spirit of the age in America. Hence, we say, there need be no fears for the grave forebodings of our Advent friends.


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