When I came to God it was not through the cross, but through the Law. That is, not specifically the Law, but through the consequences to disobeying it. Therefore, when I gave up and surrendered, I wasn’t surrendering in the gospel, i.e. giving up on my sins. I was giving up the struggle against the pressure the Holy Spirit put upon my conscience. Life had become unbearable. My faults overwhelmed me in the Navy, in my marriage, with my kids, in my heart, in my standing with my roommate, Ron. Then Seinfeld added to the burden until I turned off the TV for good. But, I still had my dependable car to get my mind off of my horrible life, until I slid out of control on black ice, flipped it on its roof, and broke the windshield. For three days I was dependent on a Navy friend until we could tow the car to his place, bend out the corner brace that formed the side of the windshield, and put in another windshield. But, during those three days, the Lord tripped me over His stumbligblock and I broke.
Once broken, I was so glad to be back with God again that I chose to stay broken. I didn’t care what anyone thought of me, I was going to stay God’s property. The world was no longer my home; heaven was mine. The Bible was my new portal to Jesus, and it was making perfect sense and answering all of my questions and encouraging me with its promises. I still didn’t understand the cross. I remember Elder Venden referring to the friendly arms of the cross on a lonely hill, but that wasn’t part of my surrender experience. Could that come later?
Has my experience so far been all that the Lord wants me have so far? Is it the John the Baptist experience or involving only the Law and surrender to the Law. Maybe my strong experience with the "Law only" has given me only John’s baptism and not Christ’s.
But, could this be in keeping with the Early Rain, when first God sent John and his Law-based message and fear of God-based message. This aroused the nation to a secondary kind of repentance, but not the primary kind that would come after Christ was crucified. But only the ones to benefit from Christ’s crucifixion were the ones who responded to John’s ministry. Thus, first those disciples had a Law based conversion, and then later, a grace based conversion that sealed them.
Now we must wrestle with the Law and loyalty to it. “Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the Law, To redeem them that were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” (Gal. 4:3-5).
Wherever the word of God has been faithfully preached, results have followed that attested its divine origin. The Spirit of God accompanied the message of His servants, and the word was with power. Sinners felt their consciences quickened. The “light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” illumined the secret chambers of their souls, and the hidden things of darkness were made manifest. Deep conviction took hold upon their minds and hearts. They were convinced of sin and of righteousness and of judgment to come. They had a sense of the righteousness of Jehovah and felt the terror of appearing, in their guilt and uncleanness, before the Searcher of hearts. In anguish they cried out: “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” GC 461.
But, then, in accordance with the format explained by Mrs. White, once people have resounded to the condemnation of the Law, the cross is raised.
As the cross of Calvary
, with its infinite sacrifice for the sins of men, was revealed, they saw that nothing but the merits of Christ could suffice to atone for their transgressions; this alone could reconcile man to God. With faith and humility they accepted the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world. Through the blood of Jesus they had “remission of sins that are past.”
This is not at all what we saw with Elder Venden. He immediately raised the cross. Was this right to do? He received a huge response. Dry hearts were hungry for his message. We ate the wheat and not the chaff, as Mrs. White had counselled preaching should be. The water of life was flowing. But, was it the Latter Rain? If so, what happened to it? Why did it die away?
Did it die because it didn’t follow the divine format explained in Modern Revivals? John was sent to Israel after they had spent 600 years in captivity and 500 years in silence from the Lord. Their religion was no longer the original Hebrew religion, but Judaism—a look-alike that resembled the Hebrew religion, but really was Babylonian. (See Mal. 3:11-13.)
Therefore, God raised up John because his father could teach him the scriptures instead of human philosophy and thus he could reintroduce the original Hebrew religion, full of reproof and holy living.
He [John] saw his people deceived, self-satisfied, and asleep in their sins. He longed to rouse them to a holier life. The message that God had given him to bear was designed to startle them from their lethargy, and cause them to tremble because of their great wickedness. Before the seed of the gospel could find lodgment, the soil of the heart must be broken up. Before they would seek healing from Jesus, they must be awakened to their danger from the wounds of sin. DA 103.
And what of today in the Advent movement? Has the original religion given through Ellen White come to its demise? Do we hear the voice of reproof and holy counsel sounding throughout our churches? Hasn’t Spiritual Formation spread around the ranks? Certainly, Spiritual Formation was not Elder Venden’s message. But neither was John’s his message.
Was that the failure of his great revival of righteousness by faith? Did he need a John the Baptist to arouse the people out of their apathy before the heard the beautiful message from Jesus through Elder Venden?
Does the lack of a John the Baptist mean that Elder Venden wasn’t supposed to give his message? That doesn’t seem likely at all, given the power it had and the truth it exalted. His was a balanced ministry. He never disparaged Ellen White, but based his message on her, and the Bible. His insights into many issues were phenomenal. Surely the Lord was in his work. I saw it with my own eyes and ears. He came to CUC for the fall week of prayer the one semester I was there. How thankful I have been ever since. Over the years I have not been able to forget the deep sense of Jesus’ love in the stories from the gospel accounts and through the deliverance from the fight of sin. What a gift from God; what a boon to my spirits. I would just sit in my seat after the crowds of lively students filed out, and I would sit in the silence as long as I could before racing to my next class. I wanted to try to remember and relive everything I had heard from that previous sermon and not lose the hope and peace that came to my exhausted soul. I did this after each of the five sermons.
I felt like I experienced in Elder Venden’s messages that of which Mrs. White wrote.
Another who participated in the movement testified: “It produced everywhere the most deep searching of heart and humiliation of soul before the God of high heaven. It caused a weaning of affections from the things of this world, a healing of controversies and animosities, a confession of wrongs, a breaking down before God, and penitent, brokenhearted supplications to Him for pardon and acceptance. It caused self-abasement and prostration of soul, such as we never before witnessed. As God by Joel commanded, when the great day of God should be at hand, it produced a rending of hearts and not of garments, and a turning unto the Lord with fasting, and weeping, and mourning. As God said by Zechariah, a spirit of grace and supplication was poured out upon His children; they looked to Him whom they had pierced, there was a great mourning in the land, . . . and those who were looking for the Lord afflicted their souls before Him.”--Bliss, in Advent Shield and Review, vol. I, p. 271 (January, 1845).
Of all the great religious movements since the days of the apostles, none have been more free from human imperfection and the wiles of Satan than was that of the autumn of 1844. Even now, after the lapse of many years, all who shared in that movement and who have stood firm upon the platform of truth still feel the holy influence of that blessed work and bear witness that it was of God. GC 401.
One thing that caught my attention was that all the lively students were mostly laughing at Elder Venden’s funny quips more than seaching their souls and glorifying Jesus. For many years my conviction has been that here is the reason that the effect which Elder Venden made on CUC wore off so quickly.
What we needed was a startling, stern messenger like John the Baptist to precede the message of righteousness by faith by Jesus. And that message is promised.
I asked the meaning of the shaking I had seen and was shown that it would be caused by the straight testimony called forth by the counsel of the True Witness to the Laodiceans. This will have its effect upon the heart of the receiver, and will lead him to exalt the standard and pour forth the straight truth. Some will not bear this straight testimony. They will rise up against it, and this is what will cause a shaking among God’s people. I saw that the testimony of the True Witness has not been half heeded. The solemn testimony upon which the destiny of the church hangs has been lightly esteemed, if not entirely disregarded. This testimony must work deep repentance; all who truly receive it will obey it and be purified.
Said the angel, “List ye!” Soon I heard a voice like many musical instruments all sounding in perfect strains, sweet and harmonious. It surpassed any music I had ever heard, seeming to be full of mercy, compassion, and elevating, holy joy. It thrilled through my whole being. Said the angel, “Look ye!” My attention was then turned to the company I had seen, who were mightily shaken. I was shown those whom I had before seen weeping and praying in agony of spirit. The company of guardian angels around them had been doubled, and they were clothed with an armor from their head to their feet. They moved in exact order, like a company of soldiers. Their countenances expressed the severe conflict which they had endured, the agonizing struggle they had passed through. Yet their features, marked with severe internal anguish, now shone with the light and glory of heaven. They had obtained the victory, and it called forth from them the deepest gratitude and holy, sacred joy. EW 270.
Now the 144,000 Ellen White sees in vision are ready to preach the last gospel message to the world, for a witness to all nations. They preached the 3rd angel’s message in verity, they preached righteousness by faith by Jesus that they heard from Elder Venden. Now it takes hold.
I heard those clothed with the armor speak forth the truth with great power. It had effect. Many had been bound; some wives by their husbands, and some children by their parents. The honest who had been prevented from hearing the truth now eagerly laid hold upon it. All fear of their relatives was gone, and the truth alone was exalted to them. They had been hungering and thirsting for truth; it was dearer and more precious than life. I asked what had made this great change. An angel answered, “It is the latter rain, the refreshing from the presence of the Lord, the loud cry of the third angel.”
Great power was with these chosen ones. Said the angel, “Look ye!” My attention was turned to the wicked, or unbelievers. They were all astir. The zeal and power with the people of God had aroused and enraged them. Confusion, confusion, was on every side. I saw measures taken against the company who had the light and power of God. Darkness thickened around them; yet they stood firm, approved of God, and trusting in Him. I saw them perplexed; next I heard them crying unto God earnestly. Day and night their cry ceased not: “Thy will, O God, be done! If it can glorify Thy name, make a way of escape for Thy people! Deliver us from the heathen around about us. They have appointed us unto death; but Thine arm can bring salvation.” These are all the words which I can bring to mind. All seemed to have a deep sense of their unworthiness and manifested entire submission to the will of God; yet, like Jacob, every one, without an exception, was earnestly pleading and wrestling for deliverance. EW 272.
I heard a famous SDA televangelist once ask, “Why does the Adventist church create so many legalistic extremists? Why the criticism and harsh fingerpointing?” I’ve seen Adventists who felt like their duty was to correct everyone around them and bring them up to the mark of the Spirit of Prophecy. But, they lacked all grace. Their hearts were cold and angry. It would be much to their chagrin that if they had really looked closely and honestly at the Spirit of Prophecy that they were preaching, they would have seen how closely they fit the description of the rejecters of God’s convicting light.
I turned to look at the company who were still bowed before the throne; they did not know that Jesus had left it. Satan appeared to be by the throne, trying to carry on the work of God. I saw them look up to the throne, and pray, “Father, give us Thy Spirit.” Satan would then breathe upon them an unholy influence; in it there was light and much power, but no sweet love, joy, and peace. Satan’s object was to keep them deceived and to draw back and deceive God’s children. EW 56.
They were the ones Jesus spoke of. “But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming;
And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken;
The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of,
And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt. 24:48-51).
It’s quite possible that the reason the Lord sent Elder Venden was to help prepare a balanced John the Baptist movement within Adventism. Now a base is formed from which the Lord can raise up the Baptists who will precede the final gospel preaching. Then will be fulfilled the end of Ellen White’s vision.
Soon I heard the voice of God, which shook the heavens and the earth. There was a mighty earthquake. Buildings were shaken down on every side. I then heard a triumphant shout of victory, loud, musical, and clear. I looked upon the company, who, a short time before, were in such distress and bondage. Their captivity was turned. A glorious light shone upon them. How beautiful they then looked! All marks of care and weariness were gone, and health and beauty were seen in every countenance. Their enemies, the heathen around them, fell like dead men; they could not endure the light that shone upon the delivered, holy ones. This light and glory remained upon them, until Jesus was seen in the clouds of heaven, and the faithful, tried company were changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, from glory to glory. And the graves were opened, and the saints came forth, clothed with immortality, crying, “Victory over death and the grave”; and together with the living saints they were caught up to meet their Lord in the air, while rich, musical shouts of glory and victory were upon every immortal tongue. EW 272.