The Great Controversy:
Preface and Introduction
This book, reader, is not published to tell us that there is
sin and woe and misery in this world. We know it all too well.
This book is not published to tell us that there is an irreconcilable
controversy between darkness and light, sin and righteousness,
wrong and right, death and life. In our heart of hearts we know
it, and know that we are participators, actors, in the conflict.
But to every one of us comes at times a longing to know more
of the great controversy. How did the controversy begin? Or was
it always here? What elements enter into its awfully complex aspect?
How am I related to it? What is my responsibility? I find myself
in this world by no choice of my own; Does that mean to me evil
What are the great principles involved? How long will the controversy
continue? What will be its ending? Will this earth sink, as some
scientists say, into the depths of a sunless, frozen, eternal
night? Or is there a better future?
The question comes closer still: how may the controversy in
my own heart, the strife between inflowing selfishness and outgoing
love, be settled in the victory of good, and settled forever?
What does the bible say? What has God to teach us about this eternally
It is the aim of this book, reader, to help the troubled soul
to a right solution of all these problems. It is written by one
who has tasted and found that God is good, and who has learned
in communion with God and the study of His word that the secret
of the Lord is with them that fear Him, and that He will show
them His covenant.
That we may better understand the principles of the all-important
controversy, in which the life of a universe is involved, the
author has set it before us in great, concrete object lessons
of the last twenty centuries.
The book opens with the sad closing scenes of Jerusalem's history,
the city of God's chosen, after her rejection of the Man of Calvary, who came to save. Thence onward along the great
highway of the nations, it points us to the persecutions of God's
children in the first centuries; the great apostasy which followed
in His church; the world-awakening of the reformation, in which
some of the great principles of the controversy are clearly manifest;
the awful lesson of the rejection of right principles by France;
the revival and exaltation of the scriptures, and their beneficent,
life-saving influence; the religious awakening of the last days;
the unsealing of the radiant fountain of God's word, with its
wonderful revelations of light and knowledge to meet the baleful
upspringing of every delusion of darkness.
The present impending conflict, with the vital principles involved,
in which no one can be neutral, is simply, lucidly, strongly,
Last of all, we are told of the eternal and glorious victory
of good over evil, right over wrong, light over darkness, joy
over sorrow, hope over despair, glory over shame, life over death,
and everlasting, long-suffering love over vindictive hate.
Beginning with its first edition (1888), followed by an author's
revision (1911), this outstanding work has achieved worldwide
circulation through many editions and translations. The reader
will find that the author writes frankly and vigorously, pointing
out errors and suggesting solutions based on the infallible word
of God. And even though the last few decades have witnessed shifts
and adjustments in the socioreligious world, the main scheme and
the future projections presented in this book maintain today full
timeliness and absorbing interest.
Former editions of this book have brought many souls to the
True Shepherd; it is the prayer of the publisher that this edition
may be even more fruitful of eternal good.
Before the entrance of sin, Adam enjoyed open communion with
his Maker; but since man separated himself from God by transgression,
the human race has been cut off from this high privilege. By the
plan of redemption, however, a way has been opened whereby the
inhabitants of the earth may still have connection with heaven.
God has communicated with men by His Spirit, and divine light
has been imparted to the world by revelations to His chosen servants.
"Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost."
2 Peter 1:21.
During the first twenty-five hundred years of human history,
there was no written revelation. Those who had been taught of
God, communicated their knowledge to others, and it was handed
down from father to son, through successive generations. The preparation
of the written word began in the time of Moses. Inspired revelations
were then embodied in an inspired book. This work continued during
the long period of sixteen hundred years--from Moses, the historian
of creation and the law, to John, the recorder of the most sublime
truths of the gospel.
The Bible points to God as its author; yet it was written by
human hands; and in the varied style of its different books it
presents the characteristics of the several writers. The truths
revealed are all "given by inspiration of God" (2 Timothy
3:16); yet they are expressed in the words of men. The Infinite
One by His Holy Spirit has shed light into the minds and hearts
of His servants. He has given dreams and visions, symbols and
figures; and those to whom the truth was thus revealed have themselves
embodied the thought in human language.
The Ten Commandments were spoken by God Himself, and were written
by His own hand. They are of divine, and not of human composition. But the Bible, with its God-given
truths expressed in the language of men, presents a union of the
divine and the human. Such a union existed in the nature of Christ,
who was the Son of God and the Son of man. Thus it is true of
the Bible, as it was of Christ, that "the Word was made flesh,
and dwelt among us." John 1:14.
Written in different ages, by men who differed widely in rank
and occupation, and in mental and spiritual endowments, the books
of the Bible present a wide contrast in style, as well as a diversity
in the nature of the subjects unfolded. Different forms of expression
are employed by different writers; often the same truth is more
strikingly presented by one than by another. And as several writers
present a subject under varied aspects and relations, there may
appear, to the superficial, careless, or prejudiced reader, to
be discrepancy or contradiction, where the thoughtful, reverent
student, with clearer insight, discerns the underlying harmony.
As presented through different individuals, the truth is brought
out in its varied aspects. One writer is more strongly impressed
with one phase of the subject; he grasps those points that harmonize
with his experience or with his power of perception and appreciation;
another seizes upon a different phase; and each, under the guidance
of the Holy Spirit, presents what is most forcibly impressed upon
his own mind--a different aspect of the truth in each, but a perfect
harmony through all. And the truths thus revealed unite to form
a perfect whole, adapted to meet the wants of men in all the circumstances
and experiences of life.
God has been pleased to communicate His truth to the world
by human agencies, and He Himself, by His Holy Spirit, qualified
men and enabled them to do this work. He guided the mind in the
selection of what to speak and what to write. The treasure was
entrusted to earthen vessels, yet it is, nonetheless, from Heaven.
The testimony is conveyed through the imperfect expression of human language,
yet it is the testimony of God; and the obedient, believing child
of God beholds in it the glory of a divine power, full of grace
In His word, God has committed to men the knowledge necessary
for salvation. The Holy Scriptures are to be accepted as an authoritative,
infallible revelation of His will. They are the standard of character,
the revealer of doctrines, and the test of experience. "Every
scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for
reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness;
that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto
every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16, 17, R.V.
Yet the fact that God has revealed His will to men through
His word, has not rendered needless the continued presence and
guiding of the Holy Spirit. On the contrary, the Spirit was promised
by our Saviour, to open the word to His servants, to illuminate
and apply its teachings. And since it was the Spirit of God that
inspired the Bible, it is impossible that the teaching of the
Spirit should ever be contrary to that of the word.
The Spirit was not given--nor can it ever be bestowed-- to
supersede the Bible; for the Scriptures explicitly state that
the word of God is the standard by which all teaching and experience
must be tested. Says the apostle John, "Believe not every
spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many
false prophets are gone out into the world." 1 John 4:1.
And Isaiah declares, "To the law and to the testimony: if
they speak not according to this word, it is because there is
no light in them." Isaiah 8:20.
Great reproach has been cast upon the work of the Holy Spirit
by the errors of a class that, claiming its enlightenment, profess
to have no further need of guidance from the word of God. They
are governed by impressions which they regard as the voice of
God in the soul. But the spirit that controls them is not the
Spirit of God. This following of impressions, to the neglect of the Scriptures, can lead only
to confusion, to deception and ruin. It serves only to further
the designs of the evil one. Since the ministry of the Holy Spirit
is of vital importance to the church of Christ, it is one of the
devices of Satan, through the errors of extremists and fanatics,
to cast contempt upon the work of the Spirit and cause the people
of God to neglect this source of strength which our Lord Himself
In harmony with the word of God, His Spirit was to continue
its work throughout the period of the gospel dispensation. During
the ages while the Scriptures of both the Old and the New Testament
were being given, the Holy Spirit did not cease to communicate
light to individual minds, apart from the revelations to be embodied
in the Sacred Canon. The Bible itself relates how, through the
Holy Spirit, men received warning, reproof, counsel, and instruction,
in matters in no way relating to the giving of the Scriptures.
And mention is made of prophets in different ages, of whose utterances
nothing is recorded. In like manner, after the close of the canon
of the Scripture, the Holy Spirit was still to continue its work,
to enlighten, warn, and comfort the children of God.
Jesus promised His disciples, "The Comforter which is
the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall
teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance,
whatsoever I have said unto you." "When He, the Spirit
of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: . . . and
He will show you things to come." John 14:26; 16:13. Scripture
plainly teaches that these promises, so far from being limited
to apostolic days, extend to the church of Christ in all ages.
The Saviour assures His followers, "I am with you alway,
even unto the end of the world." Matthew 28:20. And Paul
declares that the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit were
set in the church "for the perfecting of the saints, for
the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto
the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." Ephesians
For the believers at Ephesus the apostle prayed, "That
the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give
unto you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge
of Him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that
ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and . . . what is
the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe."
Ephesians 1:17-19. The ministry of the divine Spirit in enlightening
the understanding and opening to the mind the deep things of God's
holy word, was the blessing which Paul thus besought for the Ephesian
After the wonderful manifestation of the Holy Spirit on the
Day of Pentecost, Peter exhorted the people to repentance and
baptism in the name of Christ, for the remission of their sins;
and he said: "Ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all
that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call."
Acts 2:38, 39.
In immediate connection with the scenes of the great day of
God, the Lord by the prophet Joel has promised a special manifestation
of His Spirit. Joel 2:28. This prophecy received a partial fulfillment
in the outpouring of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost; but it
will reach its full accomplishment in the manifestation of divine
grace which will attend the closing work of the gospel.
The great controversy between good and evil will increase in
intensity to the very close of time. In all ages the wrath of
Satan has been manifested against the church of Christ; and God
has bestowed His grace and Spirit upon His people to strengthen
them to stand against the power of the evil one. When the apostles
of Christ were to bear His gospel to the world and to record it
for all future ages, they were especially endowed with the enlightenment
of the Spirit. But as the church approaches her final deliverance, Satan is to work with
greater power. He comes down "having great wrath, because
he knoweth that he hath but a short time." Revelation 12:12.
He will work "with all power and signs and lying wonders."
2 Thessalonians 2:9. For six thousand years that mastermind that
once was highest among the angels of God has been wholly bent
to the work of deception and ruin. And all the depths of satanic
skill and subtlety acquired, all the cruelty developed, during
these struggles of the ages, will be brought to bear against God's
people in the final conflict. And in this time of peril the followers
of Christ are to bear to the world the warning of the Lord's second
advent; and a people are to be prepared to stand before Him at
His coming, "without spot, and blameless." 2 Peter 3:14.
At this time the special endowment of divine grace and power is
not less needful to the church than in apostolic days.
Through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, the scenes of
the long-continued conflict between good and evil have been opened
to the writer of these pages. From time to time I have been permitted
to behold the working, in different ages, of the great controversy
between Christ, the Prince of life, the Author of our salvation,
and Satan, the prince of evil, the author of sin, the first transgressor
of God's holy law. Satan's enmity against Christ has been manifested
against His followers. The same hatred of the principles of God's
law, the same policy of deception, by which error is made to appear
as truth, by which human laws are substituted for the law of God,
and men are led to worship the creature rather than the Creator,
may be traced in all the history of the past. Satan's efforts
to misrepresent the character of God, to cause men to cherish
a false conception of the Creator, and thus to regard Him with
fear and hate rather than with love; his endeavors to set aside
the divine law, leading the people to think themselves free from
its requirements; and his persecution of those who dare to resist
his deceptions, have been steadfastly pursued in all ages. They
may be traced in the history of patriarchs, prophets, and apostles, of martyrs
In the great final conflict, Satan will employ the same policy,
manifest the same spirit, and work for the same end as in all
preceding ages. That which has been, will be, except that the
coming struggle will be marked with a terrible intensity such
as the world has never witnessed. Satan's deceptions will be more
subtle, his assaults more determined. If it were possible, he
would lead astray the elect. Mark 13:22, R.V.
As the Spirit of God has opened to my mind the great truths
of His word, and the scenes of the past and the future, I have
been bidden to make known to others that which has thus been revealed--to
trace the history of the controversy in past ages, and especially
so to present it as to shed a light on the fast-approaching struggle
of the future. In pursuance of this purpose, I have endeavored
to select and group together events in the history of the church
in such a manner as to trace the unfolding of the great testing
truths that at different periods have been given to the world,
that have excited the wrath of Satan, and the enmity of a world-loving
church, and that have been maintained by the witness of those
who "loved not their lives unto the death."
In these records we may see a foreshadowing of the conflict
before us. Regarding them in the light of God's word, and by the
illumination of His Spirit, we may see unveiled the devices of
the wicked one, and the dangers which they must shun who would
be found "without fault" before the Lord at His coming.
The great events which have marked the progress of reform in
past ages are matters of history, well known and universally acknowledged
by the Protestant world; they are facts which none can gainsay.
This history I have presented briefly, in accordance with the
scope of the book, and the brevity which must necessarily be observed,
the facts having been condensed into as little space as seemed
consistent with a proper understanding of their application. In some cases
where a historian has so grouped together events as to afford,
in brief, a comprehensive view of the subject, or has summarized
details in a convenient manner, his words have been quoted; but
in some instances no specific credit has been given, since the
quotations are not given for the purpose of citing that writer
as authority, but because his statement affords a ready and forcible
presentation of the subject. In narrating the experience and views
of those carrying forward the work of reform in our own time,
similar use has been made of their published works.
It is not so much the object of this book to present new truths
concerning the struggles of former times, as to bring out facts
and principles which have a bearing on coming events. Yet viewed
as a part of the controversy between the forces of light and darkness,
all these records of the past are seen to have a new significance;
and through them a light is cast upon the future, illumining the
pathway of those who, like the reformers of past ages, will be
called, even at the peril of all earthly good, to witness "for
the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ."
To unfold the scenes of the great controversy between truth
and error; to reveal the wiles of Satan, and the means by which
he may be successfully resisted; to present a satisfactory solution
of the great problem of evil, shedding such a light upon the origin
and the final disposition of sin as to make fully manifest the
justice and benevolence of God in all His dealings with His creatures;
and to show the holy, unchanging nature of His law, is the object
of this book. That through its influence souls may be delivered
from the power of darkness, and become "partakers of the
inheritance of the saints in light," to the praise of Him
who loved us, and gave Himself for us, is the earnest prayer of
[ Up ] [ Next ]