The First Report of the General Conference of Christians Expecting the Advent of the Lord Jesus Christ




The first General Conference on the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, unto “all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.” FRGC 19.1

Beloved Brethren:-The Lord Jesus, in his last discourses with the disciples, abundantly testified, that he will come again, in “a little while,” for their salvation; and for the execution of righteous judgment upon the quick and dead, in the glory of his heavenly dominion. He began his public ministry on the earth by proclaiming this holy gospel of his kingdom, that men should repent and turn to God, because “the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this he taught his disciples daily to pray, saying, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” And as a memorial of his death, a symbol of his resurrection, and a pledge of his shortly returning in that promised kingdom, he instituted the Sacrament of his Supper, and enjoined its observance, till he comes. And he foretold signs of his return, which coming to pass before our eyes, we feel constrained, with holy fear and humble joy, to remember his gracious words: “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh.” FRGC 19.2

It is written for our admonition, on whom the end of the world is come, that “when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be accomplished.” 13 We see that power scattered beyond all precedent, in the strife of parties in Christendom; and in the efforts made to rally the world around the banner of various denominations in Zion, for the hope of a thousand years’ triumph before the Lord’s appearing, rather than to awaken all nations with the gospel trumpet, to expect the coming King, and to gather themselves around the banner of Jesus and the resurrection, “for the day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand.” FRGC 19.3

The primitive church was a victorious host: it went forth from Jerusalem conquering and to conquer. The nations were subdued before it: enemies were converted by the patience and hope of their christian victims; which patience waited for the coming of the Lord, and which hope took hold on heaven, not on a temporal millenium. All the ages, from the day of Pentecost’s illumination to the extinction of the imperial power in Rome, confessed the faith, once for all, delivered to the saints, that Christ’s kingdom is at hand, not of this world, but of “the celestial world” to come. When the apostasy had corrupted the body of the church, and the glory had departed from Israel, the calamity of the holy people was manifest in their indifference toward the deferred hope of the Lord’s coming, and in their lively worship of departed spirits, relics of saints, and graven images. FRGC 19.4

The darkness which overcast the horizon of Christendom after this has procured, for a long period, the name of “the dark ages.” The eye of faith was feebly directed to the Lord’s near coming, and the church was given “over to believe the lie” that the blessed God had given the dominion of this world to the administration of one bishop. And in that same day in which the intrepid reformers encountered the Latin hierarchy, and threw off the papal yoke, they revived the fainting hope of the Lord’s appearing for the overthrow of anti-christ, and the dispensation of the final judgment. FRGC 20.1

Whether the reformers were right or not, in this view of the Lord’s doctrine, they girded their loins, they fought the battle, and they won the victory of the reformation; and, right or not, in this view of the Lord’s doctrine, they accorded exactly with the faith of the ancient church; and in this view they laid the foundations of the creeds and standards, and confessions of faith, of every Protestant denomination; so that on them no man can build the hope of a kingdom for Christ, or his people, in this world; and as they were right in this view of the Lord’s doctrine, and the ancient church was right in the same view, the great majority of their nominal followers are wrong; for now the church of the reformation, also, has forsaken her first love, and holds the doctrine of the kingdom in this world,-a doctrine never admitted at all in the ancient church, nor in the churches of the reformation until within the last century. FRGC 20.2

Our object in assembling at this time, our object in addressing you, and our object in other efforts, separate and combined, on the subject of “the kingdom of heaven at hand,” is to revive and restore this ancient faith, to renew the ancient landmarks, to “stand in the ways, and see and ask for the old paths, where is the good way” in which our fathers walked and the martyrs “found rest for their souls.” We have no purpose to distract the churches with any new inventions, or to get to ourselves a name by starting another sect among the followers of the Lamb. We neither condemn, nor rudely assail, others of a faith different from our own, nor dictate in matters of conscience for our brethren, nor seek to demolish their organizations, nor build new ones of our own; but simply to express our convictions like Christians, with the reasons for entertaining them which have persuaded us to understand the word and promises, the prophecies and the gospel, of our Lord, as the first Christians, the primitive ages of the church, and the profoundly learned and intelligent reformers, have unanimously done, in the faith and hope that the Lord will “come quickly,” “in his glory,” to fulfil all his promises in the resurrection of the dead. FRGC 20.3

As believers in this glorious and yet “terrible day of the Lord” “at hand,” it does not become us to judge, censure, or condemn others who see not as we do in regard to this subject, nor to show our zeal for the faith by personally denouncing scoffers and gainsayers. We desire to be humble before the Lord, to defer all judgment to that tribunal, before which we ourselves must shortly stand; and mindful of his goodness who rescued us from the snare of delusion, in which we were taken once in common with the rest of our brethren, we would be charitable toward all, and especially patient with opposers and revilers, who substitute abuse for argument, and pervert our opinions before they venture to try them by the law and the testimony. We seek not the honor of this world, nor do we fear its frown; but in the meek and quiet spirit of the gospel, we would walk in all the ordinances of our respective churches blameless, and exhibit in the purity of our lives the holiness and power of the doctrine we profess, in the hope of the appearing of our Lord in his heavenly kingdom. FRGC 21.1

Though in some of the less important views of this momentous subject we are not ourselves agreed, particularly in regard to fixing the year of Christ’s second advent, yet we are unanimously agreed and established in this all-absorbing point, that the coming of the Lord to judge the world is now specially “nigh at hand.” FRGC 21.2

We are also agreed and firmly persuaded, that the popular theory of a thousand years, or more, of the spiritual and invisible reign of Christ “in this present evil world,” where death reigns unto the coming of the Lord in his glory, is altogether unscriptural, and naturally tending to comfort sinners in their evil ways, and to dishearten the faithful; inasmuch as it takes away heavenly and eternal promises from the latter, only to convert them to the temporal use of the former, should they live, as they hope, to witness and enjoy millenial bliss in the conversion of themselves, and of this world. FRGC 21.3

We are also agreed, that at the very commencement of the millenium the Lord will come in the glory of his Father, and all the saints with him, and that the sinners then remaining alive and ungodly will be slain by the sword of the Lord, or “taken” and “cast alive, with the beast and the false prophet, into a lake of fire burning with brimstone,” 14 instead of being all converted to the obedience of the gospel. FRGC 22.1

Again, we are agreed and harmonize with the published creed of the Episcopal, Dutch Reformed, Presbyterian, and Methodist churches, together with the Cambridge Platform of the Congregational church, and the Lutheran and the Roman Catholic churches, in maintaining that Christ’s second and only coming now will be “to judge the world at the last day.” FRGC 22.2

The popular creed, that he is coming to reign invisibly and spiritually in this world, first, at least, a thousand years, is so modern that it has never gained admission into the public creed or confession of any denomination in Christendom; on the contrary, the Lutheran confession of Augsburg, and the English confession and articles of faith, published A. D. 1552, under the hand of the eminent divines who were martyred in the reign of Queen Mary, publicly brand the doctrine of a kingdom for the pious in this world, prior to the resurrection, as “a Judaizing notion,” and they explicitly “condemn those who circulate it.” * * * FRGC 22.3

We do not “condemn those who circulate the Judaizing notion;” it is the eminent reformers of Germany and England, who have done it three centuries ago, in times that tried the souls of men, and purified the faith of the churches. We condemn no man; nor yet is it reasonable that we should be condemned for calling the attention of the churches to one of the first principles of the oracles of God, and the attention of the children, our brethren, to the wise counsel and severe reproof of our fathers, the great reformers. FRGC 22.4

We are not of those who sow discord among brethren, who withdraw from the fellowship of the churches, who rail at the office of the ministry, and triumph in the exposure of the errors of a secular and apostate church, and who count themselves holier than others, or wiser than their fellows. The gracious Lord has opened to us wondrous things in his word, whereof we are glad, and in view of which we rejoice with trembling. We reverently bless his name, and we offer these things, with the right hand of our christian fellowship and union, to all disciples of our common Lord, of every sect and denomination, praying them, by the love of the crucified Jesus, to regard “the promise of his coming,” and to cultivate “the love of his appearing,” and to sanctify themselves in view of his approaching with power and great glory; although they conscientiously differ from us in minor points of faith, or reject some of the peculiarities which exist in individuals of this Conference. FRGC 22.5

We do not seek to excite the prejudices of our fellow-men, or to join with those who mock at sin, or who scoff at the word of promise of the great Jehovah, or who lightly esteem the offices and ordinances of the church, or who empty of their power the threatenings of the holy law, or who count the blood of atonement a useless thing, or who refuse to worship and honor the Son of God, even as they honor the Father; nor do we refuse any of these, or others of divers faith, whether Roman or Protestant, who receive and heartily embrace the doctrine of the Lord’s coming in his kingdom: for reason and experience unite to teach, in the words of the apostle, that “every man’s work shall be made manifest; for the day shall declare it;” and the vivid apprehension of its approach tries and consumes the wood, and hay, and stubble, among our opinions, and we all become, by gentle necessity, the lambs of one flock, and are led into one fold, under the hand of the chief Shepherd and Bishop of souls. FRGC 23.1

We appeal to the sectarian standards, to history, and to the primitive churches before “the falling away;” but we rely mainly on the holy oracles of divine revelation for the support of our views, convinced that the Old Testament alone also is able to make us wise through faith unto salvation. We deeply feel that the success of the gospel of the kingdom at hand depends on our faithful use of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments; and that the secular interpretation of the Old Testament is fearfully heretical which considers it as being silent on the subject of Christ’s coming to judgment, to raise the dead, and to dispense everlasting rewards. FRGC 23.2

The Bible is its own interpreter, independent of human commentaries; spiritual things are compared with spiritual; and the Old Testament is paraphrased in the New. FRGC 23.3

A common error is, to interpret a large proportion of the spiritual and everlasting things of the Old Testament, together with the words “everlasting” and “forever” when joined with divine promises and threatenings, as though they were limited to scenes and events of a secular and temporal nature; which is an error against the holiness and truth of God, annihilating to the power of his word, and dangerous to the souls of men. The Most High in his word always speaks of infinite and everlasting things literally, and should by such terms be taken to mean everlasting things, and not something of infinitely less importance than what the words clearly imply. FRGC 23.4

In fine, we purpose not to confer with flesh and blood in the promulgation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, coming in his kingdom, but watching thereunto with all prayer and supplication, we desire to persuade men to repent and be converted, that the body of the elect may be accomplished, and the Lord may hasten his coming. Such are the surpassing riches of his grace, that sinful men are permitted to “love his appearing,” and to “look for” it with this confidence, that when he “shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory,” “fashioned like unto his glorious body.” The heart of the humble believer is drawn out to meet the coming of our Lord with holy joy, and fruits of benevolence and love, as the bosom which feels the love of a mortal beats with lively emotion and active exertion, in hopes of the loved one’s speedy return. FRGC 24.1

Dear Brethren, inasmuch as we “know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh,” shall we not one and all “give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip,” and that day come upon us unawares? We cannot be ourselves prepared too well, or too soon, to meet the Lord at his coming, and to stand, with the assembled universe, before his awful bar; “knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance, for ye serve the Lord Christ; but he that doeth wrong, shall receive for the wrong which he has done; and there is no respect of persons.” Millions of our fellow-mortals slumber over these tremendous considerations, because they regard them as not very near; and millions of professors say openly, by their lives, and by their lips, “peace and safety,” which is a sure index of the apostle, pointing to the very time in which, “then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape.” FRGC 24.2

Let us, then ourselves, “no longer sleep, as do others, but let us watch and be sober; let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on this armor of light, for” most surely now “the night is far spent, and the day is at hand.” FRGC 24.3

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” FRGC 24.4