On a certain Sabbath morning, I was attending one of the largest Seventh-day Adventist congregation in North America. The preacher was a celebrated speaker. His subject was on the signs of the second coming of Jesus. On this morning he tried to prove to the congregation that the signs that Jesus mentioned in the chapter 24 of Matthew have no relationship whatever with our time and the proximity of His coming.
This new way of looking into the texts that mention the signs of the second coming is circulating widely among our members and becoming very popular bringing confusion and frustrating some of our good evangelists.
In view of this tendency and trying to show the other side of this fundamental teaching of the Bible and so vital to us Adventists, we decided to review some articles written by solid preacher and professors of the past in Elders's Digest. Our prayer is that the truth and only the truth may be the basis of our faith. The Editor
To many the quake that destroyed a large part of the city of Lisbon was a direct judgment of God, as attested by historians and other writers. Concerning the wickedness of the city of Lisbon at the time of the quake, one famous historian says, in almost Biblical terms:
"For many, God was judging, condemning, and chastising Lisbon, as in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah." Oliveira Martins, Historia de Portugal, vol. 2, P. 74.
It is said that a conscientious, pious priest walked up and down the streets of the city shortly before the disaster, crying out against its wickedness. He warned the people and the court of the coming judgments of God. He wrote a booklet on the subject, calling to witness the declarations before the catastrophe. It can be found in the Biblioteca Nacional of Lisbon. Because of his plain talk before and after the quake he walked to his death in the Auto da Fe, September 20, 1761.
Lisbon normally had a population of 260,000 at that time. There seems to be some difference of opinion as to the number killed, but both the Encyclopedia Britannica, eleventh edition, as well as the book Histarico Portugal, volume 7, page 44 (by Fernandes Mendes, Lisbon), do not set the number of victims above 40,000. The final number, however, will never be known short of the great day of judgment. Thousands were buried under falling buildings when the earth opened and the great tidal wave came in over the lower city. Other thousands were sucked under as the waters receded to the wide river Tagus.
"On the morning of Nov. 1, 1755 at 9:40 o'clock, there occurred the never-to-be-forgotten Lisbon earthquake. It will go down in history as the most destructive and of the strangest violence. There were three distinct phases of the quake. . . . The first lasted one and onehalf minutes. The time between the first and the second shock was sixty seconds. The second shock lasted sixty seconds. The third shock lasted three minutes. The surface of the land seemed to move like the waves of the sea before a heavy tempest.... The living went about with fearful and pale faces. Many believed that the final day of judgment and the end of the world had come.... All in the temples were killed... The Tribunal of the Inquisition was located on the spot where the present national theater stands, in the famous Rocio. It was once the palace of King John 111, and was turned over to the Holy Office in 1571." Biblioteca Nacional, Lisbon, vol.3, p. 579.
A little to the east of this building, and within sight, was the famous ancient convent of Santo Domingo, which was among the first to fall. It was from here that many of the "autos da fe" started. These "autos da fe" were solemn occasions in Portugal. High dignitaries of the church as well as court officials were usually present.
November 1, 1755, was All-Saints Day, and at this time fell on a Saturday. Announcements had been sent out to the surrounding districts, and many thousands were in the cathedrals and churches. All good citizens closed their doors and attended mass on such days. The setting was opportune for one of the worst disasters of earth's disturbances as recorded up to this time. Portugal was loath to give up the Inquisition, which had lasted more than two centuries, and was yet to endure another seventy-five years before being finally abolished.
Idolatrous Portugal was slow to learn the lesson. Centuries of idol worship, the mass, the confession, the Holy Office, and the union of church and state prepared the populace to turn to the saints instead of to God for protection and help.
"Shortly after the earthquake (only six months later), there came a request through the Portuguese Minister at the Vatican, soliciting from the Holy Father, as a spiritual blessing, the granting of a patron saint, a mediator and protector against earthquakes. . . . Pope Benedict XIV, in an Omnipotens Rerum, given at Rome, May 24, 1756, granted this request and sealed it with the ring of the fisherman." J. M. Latino Coelho, 0 Marques de Pombal, Ed. Popular.
A Portuguese citizen by the name of Francisco Xavier d'Oliveira was a gentleman of the Order of Christ. He had evidently journeyed to England and become a Protestant. In the year following the earthquake he published a book in the French language, which was later published in English, concerning the Lisbon earthquake, and giving his opinion as to its true cause. It was dedicated to his king, Joseph I. Copies fell into the hands of the inquisitors at the capital, and the author was ordered home to give answer to the Holy Office. He refused the invitation, evidently considering the climate of London superior.
"This gentleman, Francisco d'Oliveira, having been educated in the superstition of popery, was thoroughly convinced of his errors upon reading the Holy Scripture, and abandoned his native country in order to enjoy that liberty of conscience which was denied him at home." W. Sandby, Authentic Memoria Concerning the Portuguese Inquisition Never Before Published, P. 178.
The following quotation is from a well-authorized Catholic historian who comments as follows: "Francisco Xavier d'Oliveira, gentleman of the Order of Christ... abandoned Catholicism while in England where he lived many years. The inquisition proceeded against him in a legal process of 1756, being accused of having written a book filled with Lutheran heresy. The book was entitled, "Discours pathetique au sujet des calamites presentes arrivees en Portugal, adresse a mes compatriotes et en particuler a Sa Majeste Tres Fidele Joseph I le Roy de Portugal, par le chevalier d'Oliveira, a Londres, 1756."
In this book he claimed that the 1755 earthquake was a direct divine chastisement because of the public sins of the nation, which were declared to be idolatry committed through the worship of images, and also because the nation approved of and sustained the Tribunal of the Holy Office. He also attacked the Catholic doctrine of purgatory and defended the use of the Bible in the language of the people. He accused the pontiffs of being adulterers, sodomites, and salesmen of unholy indulgences. The gentleman was d'Oliveira. He was condemned and burned in effigy in the Auto da Fethat was celebrated in Lisbon within the cloister of the convent of S. Domingo on September 20, 1761, Historia da Igreja em Portugal, T4-L3, p. 43.
"The convents of the religious orders were more or less totally destroyed. The convent of S. Domingo was the first to catch fire." Francisco Lutz Pereira Souza, 0 terramoto de Lisboa, 1 de Nov. 1775, vol. 3 p. 541 (S. Domingo was partially restored by 61.)
On the day that Francisco d'Oliveira was burned in effigy the pious priest and prophet of doom perished at the stake, according to the records.
E. P. Mansell was director ofMunguluni Mission in Angola, East Africa when wrote this article.