9. The 1888 Sunday Laws

By John Thiel, The Consummation of the Everlasting Covenant Conference, Study 9, mp3 

In 1888 the Lord brought a revival.

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. {1SM 362.4}

How true and how timely was the message of the Revelation 18 angel in 1888 according to this counsel and how true is this message of Jesus that the time of test is just upon us. Ellen White says the time of test is just upon us. What does that mean? It is not just close but upon us just about. It means that in the next year or so we’ve got it. Maybe not even a year. How true is this statement?

The Time of Test

What sort of a test does it immediately raise in your mind? Isn’t the language of Adventism the test is the Sabbath test? How real is this in reference to the Sabbath test at that time when she made that statement in 1892? What else happened in 1888? Senator H W Blair brought a Sunday law bill into congress in that year. It was called the Blair bill. The Seventh Day Adventist church sent A T Jones into congress and there were others there as well that argued as the bill was being debated that this was contrary to the American institution. It was defeated, it was not passed. But if you were at the conference that we had in Perth 2010 you would have heard a presentation of the laws that were being agitated in congress from about 1887 to 1893 ‘The Urgency of Time’. We saw the subtle arrangements of the law courts in relation to trying to bring forward something to do with religious legislation. When they moved upon congress to pass laws of a religious nature it culminated in the closing of the doors on the Sunday in the world trade fair in Chicago in held in 1893.  It was a very deliberate subtle process.

The subtlety of raising particular points that had nothing to do with religion that suddenly slipped in. By 1893 it was legislated that the trade fair was to be closed on a Sunday because it was the Sabbath day according to the churches of the time. They managed to finally enforce something to do with Sunday and to close the doors of the world fair. What did this amount to according to Gods judgement of the matter?

Revelation 13:11 And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon.

13:12 And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.

Did you see the word causeth? If you follow through the history of the development of the Sunday law, it was a causing. He causeth the earth and them that dwell therein to worship the first beast.

Revelation 13:16 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:

We are Bible students and we know what the mark is because we are told according to scripture it is the mark of the power of the papacy which is the change from Sabbath to Sunday according to Daniel 7:21. He thinks to change times and laws. We know that from scripture but listen to the Catholic Church itself.

“Of course the Catholic Church claims Sunday was her act and the act is a mark of her Ecclesiastical power.” October 28 1895 C F Thomas Chancellor of Cardinal Gibbons.

They are repeating what the Bible says.  They are acknowledging that the Sunday of change is the mark of her Ecclesiastical power.

“Sunday is our mark of authority. The church is above the bible and this transference of Sabbath observance is the proof of the fact.” Catholic Record Sept 1 1923

I don’t see any other writings as clear at that from them. They speak it out rightly that Sunday is our authority the mark of the beast. They acknowledge it they are above the bible. The fact they have changed it proves the fact.

A great crisis awaits the people of God. A crisis awaits the world. The most momentous struggle of all the ages is just before us. Events which for more than forty years we have upon the authority of the prophetic word declared to be impending are now taking place before our eyes. Already the question of an amendment to the Constitution restricting liberty of conscience has been urged upon the legislators of the nation. The question of enforcing Sunday observance has become one of national interest and importance. We well know what the result of this movement will be. But are we ready for the issue? Have we faithfully discharged the duty which God has committed to us of giving the people warning of the danger before them? {5T 711.3}

Any movement in favor of religious legislation is really an act of concession to the papacy, which for so many ages has steadily warred against liberty of conscience. Sunday observance owes its existence as a so-called Christian institution to “the mystery of iniquity;” and its enforcement will be a virtual recognition of the principles which are the very cornerstone of Romanism. When our nation shall so abjure the principles of its government as to enact a Sunday law, Protestantism will in this act join hands with popery; it will be nothing else than giving life to the tyranny which has long been eagerly watching its opportunity to spring again into active despotism. {5T 711.4}

In 1887 we are told that the legislation of Sunday was already afoot and the terrible crisis is just upon us.  What did the Spirit of Prophecy say before 1887?  We are nearly asleep and need to pay attention.  What is the act of joining hands with the papacy?  Enforcing a Sunday law.

By the decree enforcing the institution of the papacy in violation of the law of God, our nation will disconnect herself fully from righteousness. When Protestantism shall stretch her hand across the gulf to grasp the hand of the Roman power, when she shall reach over the abyss to clasp hands with spiritualism, when, under the influence of this threefold union, our country shall repudiate every principle of its Constitution as a Protestant and republican government, and shall make provision for the propagation of papal falsehoods and delusions, then we may know that the time has come for the marvelous working of Satan and that the end is near. {5T 451.1}

As the approach of the Roman armies was a sign to the disciples of the impending destruction of Jerusalem, so may this apostasy be a sign to us that the limit of God’s forbearance is reached, that the measure of our nation’s iniquity is full, and that the angel of mercy is about to take her flight, never to return. The people of God will then be plunged into those scenes of affliction and distress which prophets have described as the time of Jacob’s trouble. The cries of the faithful, persecuted ones ascend to heaven. And as the blood of Abel cried from the ground, there are voices also crying to God from martyrs’ graves, from the sepulchers of the sea, from mountain caverns, from convent vaults: “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost Thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” {5T 451.2}

When the Sunday law was enacted in reference to the closing of the doors of the Chicago world fair, was that a Sunday law? Yes. What did Jesus say? By that act she is reaching her hand across the abyss to hold the hand of the papacy. What was that a sign of? The marvellous working of Satan is taking place and that the end is near and as the approach of the roman armies was the sign, this is the sign for Gods people. What is the testimony of Jesus that in 1888 to 1893 was the time of the beginnings of the Revelation 18 angel and the test? That is exactly what these things are saying. How did Jesus express this in Matthew 24?

Matthew 24:15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)

24:16 Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:

He was pointing to Daniel 9:27. There he gave a sign by pointing to that prophecy of Daniel 9.

Daniel 9:27 And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make [it] desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.

Daniel 9:26 And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof [shall be] with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.

Jesus pointed directly to this and said that overspreading of the abomination is the sign for the disciples to flee. Notice that as he pointed to that he was actually pointing to the desolation of the consummation in the same breath. In verse 27 you are reading of the desolation of the consummation when it is all over. He pointed that when it applied to the surrounding of the city. With one mouthful, with one stroke of the pen a huge span of prophecy was encompassed. The overarching of that prophecy is what the Spirit of Prophecy is now citing before us. As the approach of the Roman armies so may this may be a sign to us of the limit of Gods forbearance.

It is no time now for God’s people to be fixing their affections or laying up their treasure in the world. The time is not far distant, when, like the early disciples, we shall be forced to seek a refuge in desolate and solitary places. As the siege of Jerusalem by the Roman armies was the signal for flight to the Judean Christians, so the assumption of power on the part of our nation in the decree enforcing the papal sabbath will be a warning to us. {5T 464.3}

We sometimes think future, she is writing about our future but she was writing about the future at their moment. It was being written that the Sunday laws were right upon them in which they would cause that all the world would ultimately keep Sunday. The siege of Jerusalem by the roman armies and the decree of enforcing the papal Sabbath are one package.

The Saviour’s prophecy concerning the visitation of judgments upon Jerusalem is to have another fulfillment, of which that terrible desolation was but a faint shadow. In the fate of the chosen city we may behold the doom of a world that has rejected God’s mercy and trampled upon His law.

Dark are the records of human misery that earth has witnessed during its long centuries of crime. The heart sickens, and the mind grows faint in contemplation. Terrible have been the results of rejecting the authority of Heaven. But a scene yet darker is presented in the revelations of the future. The records of the past,–the long procession of tumults, conflicts, and revolutions, the “battle of the warrior . . . with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood” (Isaiah 9:5),–what are these, in contrast with the terrors of that day when the restraining Spirit of God shall be wholly withdrawn from the wicked, no longer to hold in check the outburst of human passion and satanic wrath! The world will then behold, as never before, the results of Satan’s rule. {GC 36.2}

The extending of the hand across the gulf by Protestantism to the papal church and also across to spiritualism is the sign of the most dreadful thing to fall upon the earth.  We are living right there.  Follow the testimony of Jesus as he is trying to tell us something here.

All the predictions given by Christ concerning the destruction of Jerusalem were fulfilled to the letter. The Jews experienced the truth of His words of warning: “With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” Matthew 7:2.  {GC 29.2}

All the predictions that Jesus made were fulfilled to the letter.  What do you think the predictions are for us?  Will they be fulfilled to the letter but so many more times worse?

Not one Christian perished in the destruction of Jerusalem. Christ had given His disciples warning, and all who believed His words watched for the promised sign. “When ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies,” said Jesus, “then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out.” {GC 30.2}

Notice what is contained in this scenario. Can you escape when the city is surrounded?

After the Romans under Cestius had surrounded the city, they unexpectedly abandoned the siege when everything seemed favorable for an immediate attack. The besieged, despairing of successful resistance, were on the point of surrender, when the Roman general withdrew his forces without the least apparent reason. But God’s merciful providence was directing events for the good of His own people. The promised sign had been given to the waiting Christians, and now an opportunity was offered for all who would, to obey the Saviour’s warning. Events were so overruled that neither Jews nor Romans should hinder the flight of the Christians. Upon the retreat of Cestius, the Jews, sallying from Jerusalem, pursued after his retiring army; and while both forces were thus fully engaged, the Christians had an opportunity to leave the city. At this time the country also had been cleared of enemies who might have endeavored to intercept them. At the time of the siege, the Jews were assembled at Jerusalem to keep the Feast of Tabernacles, and thus the Christians throughout the land were able to make their escape unmolested. Without delay they fled to a place of safety–the city of Pella, in the land of Perea, beyond Jordan.  {GC 30.2}

What a beautiful story, not a single Christian was destroyed in the destruction that is so terrible that went ahead according to the detail of Gods prophecies.  If this is a parallel which it is, then is not that meant the same for us today that we should recognise the sign so that not a single person is destroyed by the besieging enemies.  Focus on the sign in parallel. Jesus pointed to Daniel 9:27.

Daniel 9:27 and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make [it] desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.

Matthew 24:15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)

24:16 Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:

Jesus said when you would see them stand in the holy place which extended some furlongs outside the city walls.

When the idolatrous standards of the Romans should be set up in the holy ground, which extended some furlongs outside the city walls, then the followers of Christ were to find safety in flight. When the warning sign should be seen, those who would escape must make no delay. Throughout the land of Judea, as well as in Jerusalem itself, the signal for flight must be immediately obeyed. He who chanced to be upon the housetop must not go down into his house, even to save his most valued treasures. Those who were working in the fields or vineyards must not take time to return for the outer garment laid aside while they should be toiling in the heat of the day. They must not hesitate a moment, lest they be involved in the general destruction.  {GC 25.4}

This is the actual understanding of the meaning stand in the holy place – when the idolatrous standards of the Romans were placed in the holy place. This is the parallel sign. When the standard of Romanism, the banner, the sign, isn’t a standard a sign, isn’t it a banner a mark of their authority?  When they surrounded the city, they placed their idolatrous mark in the holy place.

The Protestant world have set up an idol sabbath in the place where God’s Sabbath should be, and they are treading in the footsteps of the Papacy. For this reason I see the necessity of the people of God moving out of the cities into retired country [places], where they may cultivate the land and raise their own produce. Thus they may bring their children up with simple, healthful habits. I see the necessity of making haste to get all things ready for the crisis.–Letter 90, 1897.  {2SM 359.5}

It was present tense when Ellen Write wrote that.  It was written in 1897. Are you picking up what Jesus is saying here?  1897 the standards of the enemy were placed in the holy place as they were in the surrounding of the city of Jerusalem.  There from 1888 to 1893 the equivalent of Cestius took place.

Through His servants, God gave the Jewish people a last opportunity to repent. He manifested Himself through His witnesses in their arrest, in their trial, and in their imprisonment. Yet their judges pronounced on them the death sentence. They were men of whom the world was not worthy, and by killing them the Jews crucified afresh the Son of God. So it will be again. The authorities will make laws to restrict religious liberty. They will assume the right that is God’s alone. They will think they can force the conscience, which God alone should control. Even now they are making a beginning; this work they will continue to carry forward till they reach a boundary over which they cannot step. God will interpose in behalf of His loyal, commandment-keeping people.  {DA 630.1}

Even now they are making a beginning because when this book was written they had made a beginning. When it says the test is just upon us, the beginning of the Revelation 18 angel is taking place because in 1888 the beginnings of the idol standard was placed in the holy ground.  Even then in the 1890’s the standards were being set up around the holy place, Cestius equivalent and they will continue to carry it forward. In 1888 under the Blair bill, this was initiated.  Cestius initiated the surrounding and the taking of the city of Jerusalem but he withdrew. For three and a half years the Romans had gone but they came back, Titus and his army after three and a half year.  Make no mistake the Romans will return with greater power and overthrow as they did. Sunday laws that commenced back there may have been repealed or just very weak but Cestius equivalent took place as they retreated but they came back.

The decree enforcing the worship of this day is to go forth to all the world. In a limited degree, it has already gone forth. In several places the civil power is speaking with the voice of a dragon, just as the heathen king spoke to the Hebrew captives.  {7BC 976.8}

Cestius is already given as a parallel for the sign.

The pressure of the Sunday law has come and is coming..  {10MR 275.2}

Cestius had come and Rome is coming.  Can you see it?  From Jesus we have the sign clear to this very moment.  Very soon the siege of Titus, the equivalent siege of Titus will be upon the world and Gods people.  How much time is left to escape?  It was three and a half years for the Christians and the sign today has been going on since 1888.  How urging is the message of Jesus Christ?

Matthew 24:44 Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.

24:45 Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?

24:46 Blessed [is] that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.

Watch the sign is there and at such a time when the sign is there of them establishing the mark in the holy ground, then there would be some faithful and wise servants who will give meat in due season which was, here is the sign, get out.  That means more than just going out into the country. It means disengage and we will look at that further on.  Make no mistake, it started back then in 1888 and it is going to come back with force.  The pressure of Sunday law has come and is coming. From 1888 the urgency was cited.

The faith and patience of those who have waited long, have been sorely tried. “Hope deferred has made the heart sick;” and the cry has come up before God, “Lord, how long?” But now the signs are fulfilling,–nation rising against nation, startling calamities by land and by sea, famine, pestilence, fearful storms, sweeping floods, and great conflagrations. All these testify that we are approaching the grand consummation. {RH, January 1, 1889 par. 2}

It is no longer lord how long, the signs are fulfilling.   Ever since 1888 the things that transpire thereafter are clearly to be recognised that the grand consummation is recognised back there.

The crisis is now upon us. The battle is to be waged between the Christianity of the Bible and the Christianity of human tradition. Is there not a criminal neglect in our present sleepy condition? There must be a decided advance movement among us. We must show to the world that we recognize, in the events that are now taking place in connection with the National Reform movement, the fulfillment of prophecy. {RH, January 1, 1889 par. 3}

Ellen White has entitled it as the National Reform Movement.

That which we have, for the last thirty or forty years, proclaimed would come, is now here; and the trumpet of every watchman upon the walls of Zion should raise the alarm.  {RH, January 1, 1889 par. 3}

Have you heard what I’m preaching to you now?  What’s happened?  Sleepy servants that are eating and drinking with the drunken is what we are seeing in Matthew 24:49 onwards. There are few faithful servants left but back there they were being warned where are we today?  Titus is coming and is on his way already.  The Lords day alliance has its headquarters in Atlanta America.  Its logo is the following;

“Serving the churches and the nation since 1888.”

This is their logo, the Lord’s Day Alliance. Sr White called it the National Reform Movement.  Can you see where we stand?  Rome is coming back and you know when it comes back this time, there is no escape.  What must we do? We have to move faster than any other Adventist has ever moved.  We need to understand what the moves are. God help us to understand.


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Posted on 17/01/2011, in The Consummation of the Everlasting Covenant (Conference). Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Thank you John for your reply.
    I have done a lot of thinking about your suggestion that Sabbath Keepers should not work on Sunday, to avoid persecution. Your quote from Mrs White is an apparent contradiction to everything else she said or did! It appears to come from the published book “The Southern Work.” If you go to the end of this advice she says – “I want it perfectly understood what I have said here does not apply to old Adventists who know the truth”. This advice was for a very special circumstance where the slaves had just been emancipated.

    Around 1888 there were hundreds charged and some even put in the Chain Gang for disobeying Sunday Laws. Do you know of one instance where Mrs White or the Church condemned them? To the contrary the Church even gave them financial and moral support!

    Re Desmond Doss. I do not consider him a hero – quite the opposite, He only glorifies Military Service for Sabbath Keepers. If I remember correctly at one stage he was praying for armed solders to come and rescue them! (He was a non combatant and wouldn’t carry a Gun but relied on others, who had a Guns, to do the killing for him)

    Regarding World War 1 and your “Sabbath Sunday”, the real issue seems to have been bearing arms on Sabbath. This is purely a Sabbath issue and nothing to do with a Sunday Law.

    Your quote of “Six days shalt thou labour” is part of the fourth commandment. Exodus 20:9. Adventists back in 1888 believed that it was just as binding to work SIX days as rest on the Seventh Day, and that is exactly what the fourth commandment says. See-
    Why Do Seventh-Day Adventists Suffer Imprisonment Rather Than Keep Sunday?
    At this writing (November 23), the county jail at Centreville, Queen Anne’s County, Maryland, contains three men sentenced to imprisonment by the Circuit Court until fines and costs (amounting to about $ 55 in each case) shall be paid, for the crime (?)………..

    271 W. Main St., Battle Creek, Mich. 59 Paternoster Row, London, Eng.
    185 Dearborn St., Room 7, Chicago, Ill. N. Fitzroy, Melbourne, Australia,
    43 Bond St., New York. (Care of Echo Pub. Co.).
    12th and Castro Sts., Oakland, Cal. 28 A Roeland St., Cape Town, S. Africa.
    23 Early St., Chattanooga, Tenn. 20 Melbourne Ave., Toronto, Ont.
    IS West 5th St., Kansas City, Mo .

    Mrs White says we should treat this Idol Sabbath as did Daniels three friends, who defied the Kings decree to bow to the Golden Image. What an embarrassment to the King in front of all the assembled Nobles of the Kingdom, no wonder he was livid with rage. But what a spectacular victory for truth it turned out to be! May be in the very near future we will see something just as spectacular happening if God can again find a few courageous volunteers to defy the Pope’s Idol Sabbath.

    John, I hope you understand what I am trying to say. Uncledon.

    P.S. if you would like a copy of the above mentioned booklet I can post one to you, or anyone else. uncledon@wilsonsalvage.com.au or P.O. Box 1,Cabarita. 3505. Australia.

  2. Hi John, the 1888 Sunday Laws are very interesting.

    Are you aware that Seventh-day Adventists and Seventh Day Baptists back then believed it was just as important to work on Sunday as it was to rest on Saturday? This is the reason that hundreds went to Court, Goal, and even the Chain Gang for disobeying Sunday rest Laws. Here in Australia a Seventh-day Adventist was ordered to be put in the Stocks for this belief.

    At the height of this excitement Mrs White and her workmen were working on Sunday and were also raided by the Police! Obviously she believed in working on Sunday too.

    Few people today, even Sabbath keepers, know it was fear of persecution for working on Sunday that we have the very important section 116 in our Australian Constitution.

    This is in contrast to present day Sabbath keepers who fear coming persecution for resting on Saturday.

    It is the Pope’s spurious Sunday Sabbath that is the Mark of the Beast and will be the Final Test. Uncledon

    • Thank you Don

    • Le traducteur

      Hello Brother Don,
      Thank you for these interesting informations regarding the past Sunday laws.
      In passing, though, let me point out to you this following study: https://sabbathsermons.com/2009/10/17/4-the-relationship-of-enmity/
      Here is the excerpt which is of particular interest on this very question:

      —When it comes to the Sunday laws, “You shall not work on the Sunday.” What does it say? “Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work;” and when the Sunday law comes in, you must not work, so what are you going to do? “I’m going to work none the less.” Is that what you should do? No! What is written? Here is a question that was asked Sr. White:

      Question: “Should not those in the Southern field work on Sunday?” {2MR 299.2}

      They had a problem with a Sunday law.

      Ellen G. White Answer: If they do this, there is danger that as soon as the opposing element can get the slightest opportunity, they will stir up one another to persecute those who do this, and to pick off those whom they hate. At present, Sundaykeeping is not the test. The time will come when men will not only forbid Sunday work, but they will try to force men to labor on the Sabbath. And men will be asked to renounce the Sabbath and to subscribe to Sunday observance or forfeit their freedom and their lives. {2MR 299.3}

      Did that happen in the First World War? Was there a Sabbath/Sunday issue there? Absolutely. They had to go to war on the Sabbath. Have you heard of this Desmond Doss who is so highly put up? I watched an interview of him recently, did you know that he was there as a stretcher bearer? He was highly regarded as a wonderful man. But there on the island of Okinawa, where he was, which by the way was a bloodbath, the General of the Army was going to attack on the Sabbath, but they couldn’t attack without him. So he, Desmond, said, Look, it’s my faith. They said, Alright, you go and read your Bible, we’ll hold the attack off until you’ve read your Bible and prayed, and then you’re coming. And he did come. Yet he is so much hailed as a faithful servant of God. It is breaking the Sabbath which is the Sabbath/Sunday question, not whether you are going to work on Sunday or not.

      They must move as the Lord shall direct them, but let them consider that they can do the best missionary work on Sunday. {2MR 299.3}

      That is what you do on the Sunday when the Sunday law is enforced. You do the best missionary work on the Sunday, and you don’t cause persecution by going out there and saying, I am working because this is what God has commanding me to do on the Sunday! Yes, go do work, missionary work, that’s fine. You don’t have to cause an imprudent action to create a horrible reaction.—

      God bless you!

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