It’s always rewarding to see how faithfully God has led us in the past...
Another Native Son
There are many ways to become a pioneer.
By Gibson Caesar (with Lael Caesar)
For the first 10 years of my life I was a little boy in a little village on a big plain: the magnificent, wide-open, undulating plains of Venezuela’s Gran Sabana in South America’s northern region.
Beautiful Land My name is Gibson Caesar. I am one of the original inhabitants of my region: Taurepan, Akawaio. Pemon-speaking Amerindians inhabit a land of splendid beauty shared with Spanish-speaking Venezuelans, English-speaking Guyanese, and Portuguese-speaking Brazilians. Many of us speak all those European languages and several of our own as well.
Our land features dramatic ancient rock formations called tepuis (or tepuys) that suddenly rise from the savannah floor in awe-inspiring isolation from one another. They make for spectacular waterfalls, one of which, Ayuantepui, is the source of Angel Falls, at 979 meters (3,212 feet) the world’s tallest waterfall, with one uninterrupted plunge of 807 meters (2,648 feet). Its river, the Gauja, is but one of the area’s wild rushing currents that sweep over these falls.
The indigenous word “Guayana” (“Guyana”) goes far in explaining the lush profusion of this (at times) inaccessible interior. Its meaning, “land of many waters,” describes the fertility of hinterland earth in Guyana, Surinam, Cayenne, Venezuela, and Brazil. The deep jungles of these lands have provided exotic flora and fauna for many of the world’s zoos.
My own Taurepan-speaking relatives still freely move across the fluid international borders at the base of Mount Roraima, where Brazil, Venezuela, and Guyana’s borders meet. For me, as a 10-year-old, moving from the land of my birth to Guyana would give me a new land, language, name, and life.
Paruima, Waramadong, Georgetown Paruima is an indigenous Amerindian village across the Guyanese border where the Seventh-day Adventists operated a school, with Riley Caesar as teacher. School drew me there. But within a short time teacher Riley and his wife, Lucy, drew me further in. They took me into their home and gave me their name. I could not know then how big a step this was into God’s future for me.
Two years later, in 1948, we moved to the village of Waramadong, where my dad served as teacher in the Waramadong school. But Daddy Caesar soon realized that his firstborn son needed more schooling than he could get in hinterland Akawaio villages. So after about two years in Waramadong, he sent me to Guyana’s capital city of Georgetown. By then he was not as lonely as he had been when he took me in as his first son.
Now there were four kids: me, 14 years old; Val, 4; with Theron and Lael trailing behind. And though there were no Adventist schools in Georgetown in 1950, there was an Adventist headmaster. Daddy Caesar entrusted me into Bruce Dummett’s care.
Coming of Age Georgetown was still not enough for my thirst for learning, or Daddy’s dreams for me. So after being there three months, I sailed across the Caribbean Sea to Caribbean Training College on the island of Trinidad, where my teacher-parents, Riley and Lucy Caesar, had themselves been trained.
I spent three years in that school, learning to fill Daddy’s shoes. For that was just what the Lord had destined me to do: return home to make history for my native people.
When Daddy Caesar was transferred to Guyana’s Essequibo Coast to take up pastoral duties, I took his place in Waramadong. At just 17 years old, I became the first indigenous teacher in Adventism’s history of my people in Guyana.
Back in my school days at Daddy Caesar’s Waramadong school there was a girl named Anita. She was one year my junior. Her dad, William Frederick Kenswil, traveled a bit. So for reasons of her stability, he let her spend much of her time in the care of Pastor and Mrs. Roy Brooks, missionaries living and teaching in the village of Paruima.
Mr. Kenswil paid his daughter weekly visits in Paruima, but one day when she was 13, he decided to have her come visit him instead: “You are growing up my daughter,” he said. “You need to find a good husband . . . Gibson, perhaps, or someone like him.” It was the only father-daughter conversation of that kind she would ever have with her dad. He died that same week.
Far away in Trinidad, I was doing my own thinking: “I have nobody,” I told myself. The solution would be to write to Mrs. Brooks. I did, and told her to keep Anita for me.
But life isn’t always that simple. After I came home to teach, I found myself aware of more than one charming, Christian young woman in my world. I kept thinking of Esther, who liked me a lot, and of Anita at Pastor Brooks’ home away in Georgetown.
One day I made up my mind to go see Anita. It was enough. A week later Pastor Brooks brought Anita to Waramadong to join us in marriage, March 18, 1954—me and my old schoolmate; the girl whose father, when she was 13, had encouraged her to think of me just days before he died; the girl I had asked Sister Brooks to keep for me. Amazing, isn’t it, or at least amusing, that none of us ever thought of asking Anita what she thought of all this? Blessedly for me, Anita was in full agreement with having me as her life companion.
Life Together I taught for seven years in Waramadong, the last six of them with Anita at my side as teacher and loving wife. Later we moved to Kako, some eight hours away, to open a new school. Kako put all my capacity as a leader to the test. God helped me persuade the village community to join me in doing it all. We built everything from classroom blackboard, to school furniture, to the schoolhouse itself.
Life After Kako I did many things in life after Kako. There was mining, logging, and many years of work in agriculture. Daddy and Mommy’s preparation, and my years at Waramadong and Kako, stood me in good stead.
Beginning at the Mon Repos School of Agriculture in 1973, I served as a career educator, teaching in eight of my people’s communities, places with musical Amerindian names like Paruima, Waramadong, Kamarang, Kako, Jawalla [in the Upper Mazaruni], Imbaimadai, Chinauyen, and Philippi. Anita left teaching to become a certified midwife. From her base in Waramadong she worked from 1973 to 2001, and earned the astonishing record of never losing a baby through 28 years of midwifery in Guyana’s hinterland.
But my history-making years at Waramadong and Kako will never be forgotten. God has been good to this little boy who wandered across an international border to find his family and purpose in life. Life has had its sorrows along with its joys. But I am thankful that God let us see seven of our children, three girls and four boys, grow to adulthood and do very well.
Considering their success, the growth of Adventist education among Guyana’s historic Davis Indian community, and the way God has led throughout my life, I shall always be grateful for the privilege He granted me of being the pioneer in the Christian education of my people.
Across the next border in heaven’s promised land my children and students and I will all learn from Jesus in the school of eternity.
When traveling to the mission field was as perilous as being a missionary of the Truth.
Faithful Unto Death
Ordinary people who answered God’s call in spite of uncertainty
By Merle Poirier
When John Tay met Jesus, everything changed. As a teenager John loved the sea, sailing ships, and a small South Sea island called Pitcairn. Now his love was the same, but different. For Tay, loving Jesus meant telling everyone about his new Friend.
Tay went regularly to the wharf to meet the large ships. He used to talk to sea captains about faraway places, but now he talked about Jesus. He gave them books to read. He still thought of the island of Pitcairn. Did the people there know about Jesus?
The Beginning of an Adventure
In 1886 Tay could resist no longer. He left behind his wife and home in Oakland, California, finding passages on different ships until he arrived at Pitcairn Island about four months later. John stayed on the island until the next ship arrived, about five weeks later. During that time he preached about Jesus. When he ate with people, he shared Jesus. He conducted Bible studies. When he left, every single individual on Pitcairn was keeping the Sabbath and requesting baptism! Tay promised to send a minister to baptize them and organize a church.
In April 1888 the Seventh-day Adventist Church agreed to send a minister. Church leaders asked Andrew John Cudney, 34, a minister from Nebraska, to accompany Tay back to Pitcairn. They told both men to find their own way there. Cudney wanted to share Jesus and didn’t hesitate. Leaving his wife and two young sons behind, he answered the call, even though it was 5,000 miles away, and he had no idea how to get there. He would go so that people could learn about Jesus.
Cudney and Tay arrived in San Francisco, California, in May 1888. They waited several weeks, but found no ships leaving for the South Pacific. Church leaders counseled them to separate; Tay would remain in California waiting for a ship sailing to Tahiti. Cudney would sail for Honolulu, Hawaii, on May 20. There, he would take a ship to Tahiti to meet Tay, and together they would proceed to Pitcairn.
It seemed like a good plan, but Cudney’s arrival in Hawaii found no ships destined for Tahiti either. He was uncertain about what to do. Returning to California seemed unwise. Yet no way forward seemed possible. N. F. Burgess, a believer, offered to purchase a previously owned transport vessel that was up for auction. He would repair and fit it for sailing as long as it was used to go to Pitcairn. Encouraged, Cudney agreed. While waiting, Cudney shared Jesus with people in Hawaii. He encouraged them, conducted Bible studies, and, before leaving for Tahiti, organized the first Seventh-day Adventist church in Honolulu with nine members.
Meet Me on Pitcairn
John Tay, seated first row, far right, served as part of the first crew of the Pitcairn (seen below) as the ship’s carpenter.
On July 31 Cudney left Honolulu on the newly refitted Phoebe Chapman to rendezvous with Tay in Tahiti. Just before leaving, he wrote of his desire to share Jesus: “An English captain, of extensive experience, whose wife is a Sabbathkeeper, goes as sailing master. He speaks the principal languages of the South Seas. A Swede goes as mate, who can speak five languages. Two men go before the mast as far as Tahiti without wages. . . . It does seem God’s hand is in the work. The crew are strangers; but most of them seem to be exceptionally goodhearted men, and I trust that some of them will learn to love the truth before the voyage is over. We sail at noon today, going first to Tahiti, where I expect Brother Tay is waiting for me; thence we shall go directly to Pitcairn, as fast as the wind will carry us.”*
Meanwhile, John Tay left San Francisco for Tahiti on July 5, arriving there August 8, where he waited for Cudney to arrive. Each day found him at the harbor inquiring of ships, but Cudney’s vessel never arrived. Those at the General Conference were also waiting word of the ship’s arrival. Cudney’s anxious wife wondered and prayed for her husband’s whereabouts. Minutes of meetings recorded prayers and actions that revealed the church’s anxiety for the missing ship and its crew.
Tay attempted to find a ship to take him to Pitcairn, thinking that Cudney went on without him. Once captains found out his intentions to talk about Jesus, no one would take him. After waiting in Tahiti for six months, he finally sailed for home. A year later, with no word from Cudney or his crew, it was decided they must have been lost at sea. Cudney’s wife kept his clothes for many years, hoping he would one day be found, having run aground on another island.
A Call to Action
In response, the church did not waver on the request of those in Pitcairn still waiting for baptism. Because of the challenges faced by Cudney and Tay, the church decided to build its own ship. The Pitcairn was launched in the fall of 1890, carrying three missionary couples, including John Tay and his wife. Upon their arrival on Pitcairn, 82 people were baptized into the newly organized church.
The remains of the Phoebe Chapman were found on the west coast of Tahiti in 1891. A. J. Cudney, while close, never reached his destination. Cudney wanted to share Jesus despite any obstacle set before him, sailing out in faithfulness to his call. Now he awaits the Second Coming, when the Life-giver will call him again, this time from his watery grave, where he will hear the words “Well done, good and faithful servant. . . . Enter into the joy of your Lord” (Matt. 25:21).
The Chapman family was one of the first in Petaluma, California, to accept the Adventist message from John Loughborough. Several male suitors were seeking the attention of their daughter, Phoebe, a popular and beautiful young woman. The family tells the story of the day when one young man approached Phoebe, interested in making an impression. He shared with her that he had named the first Adventist missionary ship after her—the Phoebe Chapman. Hearing that, she tossed her head and said, “I hope it sinks.”*
Later, upon hearing the news of the lost vessel, she regretted her careless words. While her words did not cause the tragedy to occur, there is wisdom in being faithful and true in our speech. “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” (Phil. 4:8).
Seventh-day Adventists have always believed that we are saved and delivered from sin through Christ alone.
A Journey of Grace
The church has grown in understanding.
By Gluder Quispe
Seventh-day Adventists have always believed that we are saved and delivered from sin through Christ alone.
Baptist William Miller, whose preaching inspired the movement from which our church arose, penned a “Creed” in 1822 that included his personal beliefs on the topic of Christ our righteousness. He wrote, “I believe that Jesus Christ was the sacrifice for sin which justice demanded; and that all those who confess their sin on the head of this victim may expect forgiveness of sin through the blood of the atonement, which is in Jesus Christ, the great High Priest in the Holy of Holies.”
Christ Our Righteousness: A Present Truth?
The early focus of Sabbatarian Adventism was on other issues as “present truth,” including the Sabbath and the heavenly sanctuary, thanks to the influence of Joseph Bates. Still, the topic of the sanctuary increased Adventists’ understanding of the work of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary as giving hope to sinners. In 1847 Bates linked the Sabbath to the heavenly sanctuary. He argued that the door to the Most Holy Place of Revelation 11:19 revealed the Ten Commandments. While this conclusion led Adventist pioneers to focus more on keeping the commandments than on Christ’s work on the cross, James White and John N. Andrews saw that the moral law pointed us to Jesus.1 In 1854 J. H. Waggoner’s pamphlet on the law in Galatians affirmed that the law in Galatians 3:24, 25 referred to the moral law. He concluded his book with a clear appeal for readers to accept the righteousness of Christ.2 Waggoner´s book did not convince everybody. Three years later Stephen Pierce responded to Waggoner’s view, saying “that the moral law alone was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ we have no evidence.” Instead, it was the types and shadows of the dispensation of law, whose body is of Christ, that led to Christ.3
A Focus on Human Righteousness
For many Adventists, Pierce´s position emphasized law over gospel and sharpened their opposition to critics who would do away with the Sabbath. It became our pioneers’ position during the next 30 years after Waggoner’swork appeared. Our church organizers did not want to compose a creed. “The Bible is our creed,” they said. But they did adopt a “church covenant,” underlining their commitment “to keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus Christ.”4
In 1872 Uriah Smith produced our first statement of belief. Its second point states: “That there is one Lord Jesus Christ, . . . [who] lived our example, died our sacrifice, was raised for our justification, ascended on high to be our only mediator in the sanctuary in Heaven, where, with His own blood He makes atonement for our sins; which atonement, so far from being made on the cross, which was but the offering of the sacrifice, is the very last portion of His work as priest.” However, Smith’s declaration did not keep many pioneers from, consciously or unconsciously, focusing on their own good behavior.
Justification by Faith
The 1888 General Conference session was one of the turning points in Adventist history. The struggle at Minneapolis was essentially about two basic questions: How are we saved? How do works relate to that salvation?
One group, led by Smith and George Butler, emphasized “human effort,” “works,” “obedience,” “law,” “commandments,” “our righteousness,” and “justification by works.” Another, led by Ellet Waggoner and Alonzo Jones, focused on “Christ,” “faith,” “justification by faith,” and terms related to Christ’s righteousness.
In the end, Ellen White joined her testimony to the two younger men, Waggoner and Jones: “I see the beauty of truth in the presentation of the righteousness of Christ in relation to the law as the doctor [Waggoner] has placed it before us.”5 “This was not new light to me, for it had come to me from [a] higher authority for the last forty-four years.”6 The remaining 27 years of her life saw Ellen White concentrate her focus on Christ and salvation themes. Books from that period include: Steps to Christ (1892), Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing (1896), The Desire of Ages (1898), Christ’s Object Lessons (1900), and others.
Our Justification Versus His Righteousness
In 1931 a new “Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists” statement was released. Statement 3 reads: “While retaining His divine nature [Christ] took upon Himself the nature of the human family, lived on the earth as a man, exemplified in His life as our example the principles of righteousness, attested His relationship to God by many mighty miracles, died for our sins on the cross, . . . He ever lives to make intercession for us.”7
Six years later M. L. Andreasen’s book The Sanctuary Service was published. It proved to be quite divisive to Adventism. Andreasen established a strongly perfectionistic understanding that has earned him many followers over the years. His chapter “The Last Generation” argues forcefully about the final vindication of God´s character by the last generation of perfect saints.8 Today’s Adventism cannot be understood without a proper appreciation for the struggle that ensued since Andreasen, particularly heightened by the publication of the book Questions on Doctrine in 1957.
Perfectionism Versus His Righteousness
As in 1888, two contrasting—indeed, opposing—sides reached a crisis point. Andreasen’s perfectionism was opposed by LeRoy E. Froom’s and Francis D. Nichol’s attention to Christ’s righteousness.
The 1975 release of Perfection: The Impossible Possibility shows Herbert E. Douglass and C. Mervyn Maxwell believing that Christ came with a fallen nature, while Edward Heppenstall and Hans K. LaRondelle espoused His unfallen nature.9
Focusing on Christ Our Righteousness
The 1980 General Conference session, in Dallas, Texas, approved a new official statement of “Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists.” During the years of spiritual and theological maturation that followed, much deep biblical study of the theme of Christ our righteousness has continued. Successive volumes on our fundamental beliefs have been published by the General Conference. Also, individual scholars have published on the topic, including, for example, Norman Gulley (Christ Our Substitute, 1982), and the book Christology (1984), edited by Raoul Dederen. As a denomination, we have also published a Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist
Theology, which includes two chapters related to “Christ: His Person and Work” and “Salvation.” Today Adventists, as a body and as individual church members, rejoice in the thrill of infinite love and mercy by which God made Christ, “who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).
1-[James White], “Justified by the Law,” Review and Herald, June 10, 1952, p. 24; John N. Andrews, Thoughts on the Sabbath, and the Perpetuity of the Law of God (Paris, Maine: James White, 1851), p. 22. 2-J. H. Waggoner, The Law of God: An Examination of the Testimony of Both Testaments (Rochester, N.Y.: Review and Herald, 1854), p. 120. 3-Stephen Pierce, “Answer to Bro. Merriam’s Question Respecting the Law of Gal. III,” Review and Herald, Oct. 8, 1857, pp. 180, 181. 4-“Doings of the Battle Creek Conference, Oct. 5 & 6, 1861,” Review and Herald, Oct 8, 1861, p. 148. 5-Ellen G. White, “A Call to a Deeper Study of the Word,” manuscript 15, 1888, in The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials (Washington, D.C.: Ellen G. White Estate, 1987), p. 164. 6-Ellen G. White, Selected Messages (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1958, 1980), book 3, p. 168. 7-“Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists,” in 1931 Year Book of the Seventh-day Adventist Denomination (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1931), p. 377. 8-M. L. Andreasen, The Sanctuary Service (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1937), pp. 279-297. 9-Herbert E. Douglass et al., Perfection: The Impossible Possibility (Nashville: Southern Pub. Assn., 1975).
Independent-minded Englishman Joseph Booth had a missionary idea for W. A. Spicer, secretary of Adventism’s Foreign Mission Board.
Adventism’s first African American missionary family in Africa
By De Witt S. Williams
Independent-minded Englishman Joseph Booth had a missionary idea for W. A. Spicer, secretary of Adventism’s Foreign Mission Board. As he listened, Spicer became convinced that it would be a great blessing to the work in central Africa. The region, Booth insisted, would benefit dramatically from “colored” workers. As Spicer wrote, they would be able to “render special service, where the white face could not get access.”1 Besides, Booth had at his disposal an estate of 2,000 acres, with buildings, that could serve as the mission compound, and much more. Seventh Day Baptists, owners of the US$25,000 property, had agreed to transfer it to the Adventists for just $4,000. But somebody had to run the mission outpost, manage the compound, and develop its potential.
PIONEER FAMILY: Henrietta and Thomas Branch (seated); behind them: Mabel (center), Robert (extreme left), and Paul (extreme right).
Thomas and Henrietta Branch
The Colorado Conference recommended a “colored” family. If the General Conference would pay their transportation, the Colorado Conference would sponsor them by paying their salary while in Africa. Thomas H. Branch was born in Jefferson County, Missouri, December 24, 1856. Henrietta Paterson was born March 12, 1858, at Roanoke, Missouri, the youngest in a large family. They met and married on December 7, 1876, in Kansas City, Kansas. Their first child, Mabel, was born in 1878. They joined the Adventist church in 1892. By that time Mabel had been joined by Thomas (June 1887) and Paul (March 1891). Robert would come later (January 1896).
When the Colorado Conference chose them, the Branch family were already pioneers. Henrietta had received some training as a nurse and would gain extra training to be able to serve as a missionary doctor. Thomas was an able speaker, a diligent Bible student, and enthusiastic lay worker in Pueblo, Colorado. Today the seeds he planted a century ago have borne ample fruit in four large African American churches in Pueblo and Denver. The Branches were older than most missionaries sent out by the church: Thomas was 46; Henrietta, 44. Their unmarried daughter, Mabel, had just turned 24. The three boys were 15, 11, and 6, and eager for the new experience. We find no evidence that the oldest son, Thomas, accompanied his parents and the rest of the family on their adventurous expedition.
Since no other Black person from the Adventist Church had been sent to Africa, the Branches were again going to be pioneers. They had no role models to copy. It took courage, bravery, and great faith in the providence of God to accept this Macedonian call. But they were glad to go. The Colorado Conference ordained Thomas Branch on May 22 and the account of their departure is recorded. “Immediately taking leave of brethren and fellow laborers, and of those for whom we labored, we went to Denver, our former home, to make ready for the journey. . . . We packed a few necessary articles, and bidding our friends goodbye, we left for Chicago. Elder Spicer met us there, and gave us all needed instructions for our journey.”2
Off to Africa
The Branches sailed for London, England, Wednesday morning, June 4, 1902, arriving June 12. Their first Sabbath in England they were guests of the Duncombe Hall church, where they were “given a hearty welcome by all the brethren.”3 A fortnight after arriving in London they sailed again, in the company of the single-minded Joseph Booth, whose initiative and ideas had started them on this journey. Before them was a seven-week voyage from Southampton to East Africa and service for the Lord in a new field of labor. They had left the world behind, but could say with assurance, “We know there is a great harvest field to which the dear Lord is taking us and we are glad for a place in His vineyard.”4
Booth the Maverick
At the mouth of the Zambezi River the British Consul detained them for nine days, which apparently allowed the Branches to find out who Joseph Booth really was and what he had got them into. Booth, it turns out, was an enthusiastic advocate for highly pro-African political and social ideas. Officials already worried that the teachings of some Black Americans induced a spirit of independence, even insubordination among Africans: Ethiopianism, a movement of African nationalism, began in South Africa around 1890 when independent African churches started forming, based on their reading of the biblical promise that Ethiopia would one day “stretch out her hands unto God” (Ps. 68:31, KJV). Colonialists equated Ethiopianism with educated American Negros, though it was Joseph Booth the Englishman, not Thomas Branch the African American, whose ideas and action were to be associated with this thinking.
Booth had written Africa for the African, in which he outlined a program for abolishing British colonialism. Booth believed in complete racial equality, and felt called by God to speak against inequalities. His industrial mission was a way to develop financial and educational independence for Africans. Spicer and the Adventists knew nothing of this when Booth first charmed them with his estate initiative. Booth had mentioned nothing of it. It took some effort to convince the authorities that the Branches were not involved in
Plainfield Mission, the estate outpost, involved great problems between Branch and Booth. The Branches were not interested in Booth’s proposals, but in teaching and preaching the gospel. Booth was always involved in some project and never had enough money to pay the mission bills or the Branches’ salary. After just six months the Foreign Mission Board recalled Booth and asked him to become a colporteur in England.
Leading at Plainfield
With Booth gone, Branch labored alone as the director of Plainfield Mission until the Mission Board sent Joseph H. Watson with his wife and son to join Branch. But in less than a year the climate had ravaged Watson. He passed away at age 33, was buried on the grounds of the mission station, and his wife and son returned home. Branch continued as director, and on July 14, 1906, organized the first Adventist church in Malawi.
Branch continued to direct the mission until another missionary, Joel C. Rogers, renamed the mission Malamulo (meaning “commandments”), and the Branches went to South Africa in 1907 seeking a better climate and to put their boys in school. To their great disappointment, their boys could not attend White Adventist schools. This, along with challenges to Henrietta’s health, led them to return to the United States the next year. Thomas was placed once again in charge of the colored work in Denver.
Branch left at least one more pioneering mark on the work when he was called to the East Pennsylvania Conference in 1911. There he organized and pastored the First African Seventh-day Adventist church of Philadelphia. Later the church was renamed Ebenezer, and it became the mother of nearly a dozen African American churches that exist in the Philadelphia area today. Henrietta Branch died in Philadelphia on April 4, 1913.
The Branches were pioneers, in Colorado, Malawi, and Philadelphia. Rather than focus on politics and prejudice, they proclaimed the gospel and brought true liberation to many. Their amazing legacy to the Adventist Church stands as an inspiration and path-breaking model of the church’s international mission by everyone, from everywhere, to everywhere, until the whole world knows.
1-W. A. Spicer, “The New Missionary Enterprise: Nyassaland,” Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, May 27, 1902, p. 17. 2-Mr. and Mrs. T. H. Branch, “Called to Africa,” Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, July 15, 1902, p. 20. 3-Ibid. 4-Thomas Branch and Family, “On the Ocean,” Echoes From the Field, Sept. 3, 1902, p. 2.
Seventh-day Adventists have long looked to our pioneers for inspiration.
The Spirit of ’63
The First General Conference Session
By David Trim
Seventh-day Adventists have long looked to our pioneers for inspiration. As we prepare for the sixtieth General Conference session in San Antonio, Texas, United States, in July 2015, there are lessons to learn and points of inspiration to take from the first, founding session 152 years ago, when Seventh-day Adventist leaders met in Battle Creek, Michigan, in May 1863.
That expression, “Seventh-day Adventist leaders met,” sounds so simple. But just 32 months earlier it could not have been said. For it was only as recently as October 1, 1860, at an earlier meeting in Battle Creek, that believers had agreed “that we call ourselves Seventh-day Adventists.” Before then, the term Seventh-day Adventist had been used as often by enemies, as a term of abuse, as by the few members of the yet-unorganized movement that had emerged after the Great Disappointment of 1844, based on belief in the seventh-day Sabbath, in conditional immortality, and in the high-priestly ministry of Jesus Christ in the heavenly sanctuary.
At that 1860 meeting it took four days of debate to reach a consensus that if God’s remnant people formally organized their local churches and adopted a common name for themselves, they would not be retreating into Babylon. But those few steps were as far as Adventists would go. The prospect of any organization above the local congregation was unacceptable.
Conferences and General Conference Yet, remarkably, within two and a half years Seventh-day Adventists in Michigan, Iowa, Vermont, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, and New York had organized seven separate associations of churches into what they calledRELUCTANT LEADER: James White, a founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, was elected president at the first General Conference in 1863, but turned it down. Above, right: IT’S OFFICIAL: Handwritten credentials for J. N. Andrews from the 1864 General Conference session. conferences—two in Iowa, one covering Illinois and Wisconsin, the others each covering one state; then the two in Iowa merged into one. But what was recognized by many Seventh-day Adventists was that, in effect, this meant there were six Seventh-day Adventist denominations—not one. So in March 1863 James White, the unofficial (but undisputed) leader of Seventh-day Adventists, published, in the Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, the journal that bound the widely scattered believers together (usually known then simply as the Review and Herald and today as the Adventist Review), a call for a “General Conference.”
The term general conference had been used by the Millerites in the early 1840s; indeed, Joseph Bates had been chair of one such conference. In the 1850s the seventh-day Sabbathkeeping Adventists used the term for meetings that were open to all adherents of the Sabbatarians’ distinctive doctrines—that is, a conference, or meeting, that was general rather than local. However, by 1860 several Protestant denominations in the United States were using the term conference for a permanent association of congregations, and it was this use that the state conferences had borrowed. Moreover, Mennonites, Baptists, and Methodists, used general conference for an association of such conferences. Seventh-day Adventists, many of them former Baptists and Methodists, would have been aware of this use.
Still, James White’s announcement in the March 10, 1863, issue of the Review probably seemed to some Sabbatarians to be calling just another general meeting, though it did hint that important matters of common interest might be discussed. He wrote: “We recommend that the General Conference be held in connection with the Michigan State Conference at Battle Creek, as early as such a gathering can be convened. . . . We suppose that it would be the pleasure of the brethren in other States, and the Canadas, to send to the General Conference either delegates or letters setting forth their opinion of the best course of action, and their requests of the Conference.”
White suggested late May as the best time, and soon after a date was agreed upon.
The First Day of the First Session
So it was, on Wednesday, May 20, 1863, that 20 leaders of the embryonic Seventh-day Adventist movement gathered in Battle Creek. Some arrived only during the course of the day, so it was not until 6:00 p.m. that they assembled in the Second Seventh-day Adventist Meeting House in Battle Creek.
There were 18 delegates from five of the six existing state conferences: Michigan, New York, Illinois and Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa. The Vermont Conference (which included churches from across the Canadian border in Quebec) dispatched no delegates to Battle Creek, but two delegates were sent from the Seventh-day Adventist churches in Ohio, which had yet to organize into a conference. Also present were a number of members of the Battle Creek church, who were not official delegates of the Michigan Conference but interested observers of the proceedings. All the official delegates were men, though at least one woman, Ellen White, was among the locals who attended as onlookers. Two official delegates were laypersons, holding no ministerial credentials—and constituted two-thirds of the General Conference’s very first Nominating Committee!
The 20 delegates’ first action was to elect a temporary chair and secretary. The chair was Jotham M. Aldrich; the secretary, Uriah Smith. Aldrich was 35 and had only become a Sabbatarian Adventist in 1860; Smith was just 31 and, remarkably, was not a delegate, but one of the observers from Battle Creek. These two facts tell us something about the founders of our church. Many of them were young, and they were pragmatic. Where they saw talent, they would use it to spread the third angel’s message.
Having elected a chair and secretary, delegates and onlookers then joined in singing hymn number 233, “Long Upon the Mountains,” by Annie R. Smith, from the hymnbook James White had published in 1861 (itself a revision of a hymnal he had first printed in 1849). Then John N. Loughborough, of Michigan; Charles O. Taylor, of New York; and Isaac Sanborn, of Wisconsin, were chosen as a committee to inspect and verify the credentials of the delegates. This tells us something else about the men who founded the General Conference: they liked to sing hymns, and they valued proper procedure and committees. Some characteristics of our church go back to our very origins!
Delegates then duly presented their credentials for approval. None of the originals survive, though credentials for the 1864 session do survive, and one is pictured. Once the General Conference’s first committee had completed its business (which, with only 20 sets of credentials to review, could not have taken very long), the session adjourned until the following morning.
Founding the General Conference
The next day, Thursday, May 21, 1863, was the big day. The first step was the selection of eight men to draft a constitution: Sanborn, of Wisconsin; Loughborough and Joseph H. Waggoner, of Michigan; John N. Andrews and Nathan Fuller, of New York; B. F. Snook, of Iowa; Washington Morse, of Minnesota; and H. F. Baker, of Ohio. They reported back so promptly that some preliminary work must have been done before the session and the constitution was then approved unanimously. The General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists was thus formally founded. More than a periodic meeting, it was a permanent association that would have annual sessions, with a constitution, three officers (president, secretary, and treasurer), and an executive committee.
Elections were then held. John Byington was eventually elected president (and took the chair from Aldrich); Eli Walker (another Battle Creek local who was not a Michigan Conference delegate) was voted in as treasurer; and Uriah Smith was chosen as secretary. George Amadon, a Michigander, and John Andrews were elected to make up the executive committee with Byington. A committee was then formed (J. N. Loughborough, I. Sanborn, W. H. Brinkerhoff, J. M. Aldrich, and W. Morse) to draft a model constitution for all state conferences and the session then adjourned until Saturday night, May 23. Meeting after sunset, delegates approved the model constitution (which all conferences that wished to join the General Conference would have to adopt), and set up another committee (White, Andrews, and Smith) to report back to the 1864 session on rules for local churches to follow when organizing. Then the 1863 session concluded. Whereas the “general conference” late in 1860 had lasted four full days, the first GC session transacted its business in one full day plus two short evening meetings.
Honesty, love and humility
The fact that so much was achieved in such short time is striking, for our pioneers were capable of blunt, plainspoken debate when they disagreed. When they differed, they said so straightforwardly. But our forefathers’ tendency to express themselves frankly shouldn’t be misunderstood.
On the first day of the 1860 conference James White began his first speech by addressing the chair, which was proper parliamentary procedure; but he did so in a unique way. For the chair was Joseph Bates, whom White had known for 20 years. These were his opening words: “Brother Chairman (you will permit me to call you brother chairman as Mr. is so exceedingly cold).” White’s use of “Brother Chairman” instead of the orthodox “Mr. Chairman” reflects that our founders had invested everything in the Great Second Advent movement. They were bound together by bonds of deep affection. At times, they disagreed with each other vigorously, but they sang hymns and prayed together, too.
There was less debate in 1863 than in 1860, partly because a Christlike spirit prevailed, but partly because delegates had largely reached consensus on key points before they arrived. Reporting in the next issue of the Review, Uriah Smith wrote with satisfaction: “Perhaps no previous meeting that we have ever enjoyed was characterized by such unity of feeling and harmony of sentiment. In all the important steps taken at this Conference . . . there was not a dissenting voice, and we . . . doubt if there was even a dissenting thought.”
This was one reason so much was accomplished in just over a day. Surely, too, as suggested earlier, some of the eight members of the constitution committee had done some drafting in advance. That was entirely proper, for all those who met at Battle Creek in 1863 knew that they needed to be more united and more organized, if, in words they voted on May 23, 1863, “the great work of disseminating light upon the commandments of God, the faith of Jesus, and the truths connected with the third angel’s message” was to be accomplished. As the preamble to the General Conference constitution stated, it was founded: “For the purpose of securing unity and efficiency in labor, and promoting the general interests of the cause of present truth.”
From this we learn something else about our founders: Whatever the debates of the 1850s, by 1863 they were clear: they needed to be united if they were to fulfill their divinely assigned mission. This mission was truly uppermost in their minds, rather than personal factors. We can be confident of this because, Uriah Smith’s comments notwithstanding, there was one moment of disagreement in 1863.
James White was unanimously chosen president, but he declined to serve. After a considerable time spent in discussion, the believers urging reasons why he should accept the position, and he why he should not, his resignation was finally accepted, and John Byington elected as president in his stead.
No reason was given why James White refused, but we can guess, I think. He had championed organization for several years and surely wanted it to be clear that he had done so because it was what the movement needed, not so that he could become president. With Ellen White as his wife, he almost certainly also wanted to avoid any comparison to Joseph Smith and Brigham Young of the Mormons, presidents of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. but also self-
proclaimed prophets. White’s personal qualities were never better displayed than in this moment, arguing at length with his brethren so that they would not make him their leader. He put the unity and mission of the new denomination above all personal factors.
Between the session’s adjournment on Thursday evening and its resumption on Saturday night, Adventist leaders turned to their favorite activity: evangelism. On Friday, May 22, the Michigan Conference’s evangelistic tent (what later generations of Adventists would call a “big tent”) “was erected on the green” near the Review and Herald office, as Uriah Smith reported. Eight evangelistic meetings were held, with delegates participating, broken by a church service on Sabbath, May 23, also held in the Second Meeting House. The session’s proceedings finally concluded with a baptism of eight new believers on the morning of Sunday, May 24.
Here is a last point about our founders. They valued committees, parliamentary procedure, and organization, but only as means to an end. The end they had in sight was the end of time, and the second coming of Christ, and a reaping of the harvest.
The Spirit of ’63
The spirit of ’63 is still relevant for Seventh-day Adventists as we look forward to the sixtieth session in San Antonio, and to the future of the Great Second Advent movement. We need the same commitment to unity and to mission; we need to continue to follow proper, well-established procedures; and we need the same willingness to utilize all church members, finding ways to affirm all their talents and commitment.
We need, too, the same willingness to speak plainly to each other; but we also need the same love for each other, as brothers and sisters in Christ; and the same willingness to put the prophetic mission of this church above any considerations of self.
Without these characteristics, the General Conference would not have been founded in 1863; without them, our church would not have expanded around the world. And only if we have them, and have strong personal relationships with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, will we be able to fulfill the prophetic mission God gave to Seventh-day Adventists, who united for mission at the first General Conference session in 1863.
David Trim is director of the General Conference Department of Archives, Statistics, and Research in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.
Reading wasn’t Ida’s favorite subject, but this story from her fourth-grade reader intrigued and impressed her. Entitled “The Transport Rider,”
Angels at Work in South Africa
Two hours of study with a stranger
By Elaine Tarr Dodd
Reading wasn’t Ida’s favorite subject, but this story from her fourth-grade reader intrigued and impressed her. Entitled “The Transport Rider,” it was about Fletcher Tarr growing up in South Africa during the 1800s, transporting goods to the diamond mines, and, in the process, learning about the seventh-day Sabbath. As she read she felt so strong a presence that she looked behind her . . .
Pioneer Background Born David Fletcher Tarr in 1861, he was the twelfth of 16 children of James and Hannah (Brent) Tarr, godly Wesleyan Methodist Christians. The Tarr and Brent families had chosen South Africa among those now known as the 1820 Settlers. As new immigrants they transformed the wilds into a place they could call home, building houses, wells, and gardens, and a church near a hillock they named Clumber, where people still worship today. Fletcher Tarr, a good athlete and crack shot who loved his Bible, became a Sunday school teacher at 15, and later a lay preacher. In 1887 his cousin Albert Davies and Albert’s wife decided to transport supplies by ox wagon to the Kimberley diamond mines, about 800 miles to the northwest. Something about the deal drew Fletcher in: something was calling him north.
Journeying Into the New With loaded wagons, they started out, making their own roads. Weeks later they reached Beaconsfield on the outskirts of Kimberley late on a Friday afternoon. Seeking a place to camp and graze their oxen, Albert was directed to a farmer named Pieter Wessels, who said they could stay as long as no Sabbathbreaking activity took place on his property for the next 24 hours. “The Sabbath begins at sunset today and lasts until the following sunset,” he explained. Albert, amazed that an intelligent person would not know one day from another, questioned him. At that Wessels plunged into a Bible study, apparently so sound that Albert rushed off to tell his cousin the new biblical interpretation. Fletcher, the good Bible student, simply dismissed Wessels as somewhat unstable. But at Wessels’ invitation the next morning, he went with him to preach to a large Salvation Army audience in Beaconsfield. The following morning during Fletcher’s personal devotions, a stranger appeared at the tent. Fletcher invited him inside. The stranger wanted to study, he said, “about the sanctity of the first day of the week.” But after more than two hours of unsatisfying study regarding Sunday’s sacredness, the man suddenly disappeared. Fletcher never saw him again. No area residents had ever seen him. Fletcher became certain the stranger was an angel sent to convince him of the true Sabbath. After hours of soul-searching prayer he decided to keep the seventh-day Sabbath. Now he knew why he had felt urged to travel northward with the ox wagons. God would show through Fletcher’s ministry that that urge was not for his sake alone. About four months later Albert, his teammate, and Albert’s wife were baptized in the water of Brother Wessels’ dam. Soon after this, his studies among relatives and friends, supported by the public preaching of I. J. Hankins, resulted in a strong church being raised up. Its new converts included five local preachers. Its house of worship, erected by Fletcher on land donated by a cousin, Ebenezer Purdon, is still used by Adventists in the area. Another church at Beaconsfield that he assisted in establishing is a national monument advertised as the First Seventh-day Adventist Church in South Africa. It is almost on the same spot where the angel met with him in his tent that memorable morning. A few weeks of study with his eldest brother, James, resulted in seeing his entire family of 15 children join the church, followed by his second-eldest brother, Walter, a widower, and his children. Of these two families, 17 became church workers, including four ordained ministers. Many more descendants have since worked for the church.
Expanded Service In 1890 Fletcher and two nephews sailed to America to attend Battle Creek College, where he became acquainted with, and cherished a friendship, with Ellen White. He returned to South Africa in 1893 accompanied by his new bride, Olive [nee Phillips], who had been chief nurse for John Harvey Kellogg.
As fluent in the Xhosa language as he was in English, Fletcher worked with the native population, often leaving Olive alone in their home, a corrugated iron house with only two rooms—unbearably hot in summer and bitterly cold in winter.
One night while drying fruit on the kitchen table, Olive left the upper section of the door open for ventilation. Suddenly a fierce face appeared in the doorway. Quickly she slammed and bolted the upper half, then ran to the open window, screaming for their large pet dog, Peter, and shut it just as the face appeared there. The bedroom window was shut, but as she closed the curtain, a huge rock smashed through. In a moment Peter arrived and caught the intruder by the seat of his trousers. Yelling wildly, the man disappeared into darkness. In the morning his torn clothing lay outside the bedroom window.
In time the Tarrs and their son Percy moved to Cape Town, where Fletcher pastored English and Dutch congregations. Then came evangelistic and pastoral work in various large cities on his national worker’s salary of 7 pounds sterling a month—equivalent then to $7 weekly. Olive fed their five sons and turned faded suits inside out, re-sewing the seams for a newer look. The family usually walked miles rather than ride a trolley for a few pennies.
Around 1916, to the dismay of conference officials and her husband, Olive accepted responsibilities with the City of Port Elizabeth, overseeing the welfare of indigent widows. Her labors upon Port Elizabeth’s hillsides brought the family about $3 a week. But her health suffered. Notwithstanding, the great flu epidemic of 1918 saw her appointed head nurse for the city, because of her experience with Battle Creek Sanitarium. She also conducted Sabbath morning services for Fletcher when he was elsewhere, playing the old pump organ, leading the singing, and occupying the pulpit, all along attending to two little sons wiggling mischievously in the front row.
Furlough and Goodbye
In 1921 Olive took her first and only furlough after a 24-year absence from her friends and family in the U.S. Her old boss, Dr. Kellogg, observed that she needed surgery and insisted that he operate on her himself. She returned to serve for a dozen more years, and passed away in 1933 in East London at age 63.
After her death Fletcher lived alternately with his sons while still pastoring a local church. His grandchildren recall his absorbing stories and his unstoppable commitment to sharing his faith. While living in Durban in 1947 he developed pneumonia, and passed away at age 86. His tombstone reads: “Awaiting the Lifegiver.” Today countless believers wait along with him, who trace their Adventist faith to David and Olive Tarr’s combined 99 years’ work for the Lord in South Africa.
Back in California
Little Ida grew up and enrolled in the School of Physical Therapy at Loma Linda University, completely forgetting her odd experience while reading the Fletcher Tarr story. At Loma Linda she met dental student David Otis, who shared her love of the Lord. They married and began a family. One day David discovered among his belongings a fourth-grade reader with the story of his great-grandfather, David Fletcher Tarr, the first English-speaking Seventh-day Adventist minister in South Africa. He showed the story to Ida and that long-ago impression came flooding back. It must have been a heavenly presence watching her fascination with a story that would impact her future.
Elaine Tarr Dodd is a former public relations director for It Is Written. This story is her version of one first written by her father, W. F. Tarr, who passed away in 1994. Elaine lives with her husband of 56 years in Collegedale, Tennessee, United States.
The global faith community of Seventh-day Adventists now embraces literally millions of children and youth in more than 200 countries, almost all of them served by the Sabbath school ministry and an array of age-appropriate journals. Here, from the pen of one of the church’s best-known historians, is the story of how that ministry began.—Editors.
It was the summer of 1852, six years after the beginning of the third angel’s message. The headquarters, if headquarters they could be called, were in a hired house in Rochester, New York [U.S.A.]; the number of field workers was three. Cholera was raging in the city, and through the night the rumbling of the death carriages ominously spoke the doom of the living. Fear sat upon the people.
James and Ellen White had appointments out from Rochester to Bangor, Maine, traveling by horse and buggy. But their younger child, Edson, three years old, was stricken with the cholera. How could they leave? With brethren and sisters, they took him to the Lord, and the disease was stayed; but he remained weak and unresponsive. They could not abandon him; yet thus must go. Placing him upon a pillow, one afternoon at four o’clock, his mother rode for twenty miles, his father driving, before they halted for the night.
“If you go on,” said their hosts, “you’ll bury that child by the roadside.” Yet they went on, a hundred miles in two days, the mother exhausted and sleeping much of the way with her child tied to her waist by a cord, lest he fall. Little Edson revived, and continually improved as the parents filled their appointments, beginning in Vermont.
Was it the sight of his sick child that stirred James White’s mind to a need in the infant cause? Was it the voice of the Master that called to him as he drove, silently praying while he looked upon his sleeping wife and babe, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven”? There were other babes and other children of the believers, few hundreds though they were, who were languishing, not from disease, but from spiritual neglect. The child—what was he? Simply a little man, and as a little man he should take a little of what greater men took. He should listen to the sermon, dangling his feet from the high bench and wagging his weary body against his mother; if he did not know all the big words, he knew the little ones: sin, fall, angel, Jesus, end of the world. Time was short, the Lord would come before the child would be grown; why bother to educate him? James White wrote, “Some have thought that because Christ was so soon coming they need not bestow much labor on their children. This is a grievous error, sufficient to call down the frown of Heaven.”
ADVENTIST ORIGINALS: An early hymnal for Adventist youth (upper left) was compiled by Anna White, James White’s sister. She also edited the Youth’s Instructor. After her death, Roswell F. Cottrell (upper right) became editor. This man who loved children, who had been a teacher of children, who early in his ministry had taken pleasure in confuting adults who opposed the conversion and baptism of children, was now, in the midst of his cares and burdens in starting this final gospel message, stirred to the depths of his soul by the needs of the children; and he was made the instrument in the hands of God to plant the seed of a mighty movement in the church for the education of children and youth.
This purpose was immediately announced in their only existing paper, the Review and Herald [now the Adventist Review]: “We design publishing a small monthly paper, containing matter for the benefit of the youth. And we are satisfied that our brethren and sisters will agree with us, that something of the kind is very much needed. The children should have a paper of their own, one that will interest and instruct them.
“God is at work among the children who have believing parents, or guardians, and many of them are being converted, and they need to be instructed in the present truth. And there is a portion of the children who have believing parents, or guardians, who are neglected, and do not have right instruction, consequently, they do not manifest much interest for their own salvation. We trust that such a paper as we design publishing will interest such children, and also be the means of waking up their parents or guardians to a sense of their important duty. On them rests the awful responsibility of training souls for the kingdom of God. But it is a lamentable fact that many of their children are left without suitable instruction. We feel more on this subject than we can express. May God wake up His people to a sense of their duty to those young minds, entrusted to their care, to guide in the channel of virtue and holiness.
“We intend to give four or five lessons, in the form of questions and answers, in each number, one for each week for Sabbath school lessons. These schools can be held where there are but two or three children as well as where there are more.”
The first number of the Youth’s Instructor was published at Rochester, New York, in August 1852, a monthly, with subscription price twenty-five cents a year, but free to children who themselves or whose sponsors could not pay. The editorship was not declared but it was under the care of James White, who was greatly assisted at this time by Annie Smith. A year later the editor was Anna White, the sister of James White, who with her brother Nathanael had come to live with them, in the autumn of 1852….
James White had prepared an initial series of nineteen Bible lessons on the main points of the faith. While they were designed for children and youth—an omnibus assignment—they served also, in the absence of other Sabbath school material, as the lesson studies for adults. These first lessons were followed by seventeen others selected from a non-Adventist paper. Eight lessons on the sanctuary followed, and then the momentum was exhausted. While the mother of the Sabbath school, the Youth’s Instructor, continued to be published as a monthly, its child was left forlornly crying for attention. Bowed under many cares, and ill, James White could barely keep the Advent ship pointed on her true course, and the interests of the Sabbath school languished for eight months.
Then the soul of Roswell F. Cottrell was roused to action, and he prepared a year’s course of weekly lessons, which in 1854 appeared in the Youth’s Instructor, and the next year were published in book form, The Bible Class. This little book served as the Sabbath school guide for two or three years, until the edition of two thousand was exhausted. Like the first lessons, they were designed as food for children and youth; and, again like them, they became meat as well for the old. But if the science of feeding the child was not greatly developed in that day, at least the will to nourish was there, and the children’s teeth were strong.
Arthur W. Spalding (1877-1953) was a much-admired Adventist educator, author, and editor. His four-volume history of the church, Origin and History of Seventh-day Adventists, from which this selection is drawn (vol. 2, pp. 61-65), was published in 1962.
Seventh-day Adventists draw their beliefs from the teachings of the Word of God, consciously ordering both their doctrines and their practices by a clear “thus saith the Lord.” From the earliest days of this movement that included an embrace of the biblical doctrine of the gift of prophecy—just because that truth is clearly taught in Scripture.
One of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s ablest early leaders was Arthur G. Daniells, longtime president of the General Conference (1901-1922), and a friend and colleague of Ellen G. White during the latter half of her long life (1827-1915). Following his retirement, Daniells penned The Abiding Gift of Prophecy in 1935, to affirm the prophetic gift that he had witnessed during many years of ministry. This selection is from his concluding chapter.—Editors
The welfare of the church as a whole, and of its individual members, is inseparably bound up with believing and heeding God’s prophets. These, as we have seen, are His chosen messengers, His appointed spokesmen, to His church on earth. As we have also clearly shown, this plan of communication has been God’s chosen, uniform, and beneficent provision for revealing His will to man, ever since the separation caused by sin. Through this means, God counsels and instructs, He cautions, entreats, and warns, as need may occasion and as divine love indicates. The presence of the prophet among men is not, therefore, something new or unusual, something strange or fantastic. God is the author of this provision, and wayfaring man is its beneficiary. It is as old as the human need, and as constant as the divine love that prompted and instituted it.
The vicissitudes of the church in all ages have been gauged by its allegiance or its disloyalty to the gift of prophecy, and its safety measured by its response to these heavenly leadings. Through the centuries spanning the patriarchal, Mosaic, and apostolic eras, we have seen this inviolable rule in operation, as revealed in the pages of Holy Writ.
Then after the death of the apostles, the tragic march of events in the Christian era begins, is told in blood and tears, and is blotched with drift and apostasy. Steadily the nominal Christian church veers from those foundation principles—the precepts and practices, the letter and the spirit—that characterized the apostolic church. The departure centered in perversion of the law and the gospel, though it permeated every truth of Christianity.
Tragic has been the lot of those who stood for the primitive faith. Hated and maligned, persecuted and isolated, they witnessed to the truth. But from time to time prophets—men and women—arose at the call of God, and denounced the iniquity of the disloyal. They encouraged the fidelity of the faithful, and guided and guarded the adherents of truth through the weary centuries.
Now in these divinely denominated “last days,” God’s great plan of redemption and the mad course of the human race approach their climax together. Iniquity so abounds among men, human philosophy is so defiant, man’s independence of God and of the provisions of redemption are so affronting in this supreme conflict between good and evil, that it was imperative for the gift of prophecy to be conspicuously manifest in the ranks of the remnant church.
Paramount Need in the Last Days If ever in the course of the race man needed divine guidance, it is surely in these last days, when all the forces of iniquity have broken loose to confuse and to ruin, when the secular world has gone materialistic, and the religious world has turned to modernistic teachings. If ever in history the church needed to have divine guidance, that time was reached at the crisis hour of the Advent movement, just following the disappointment of 1844, and throughout the decades following. Far-reaching were the issues; but adequate was God’s guidance.
The last conflict comes over allegiance to God, and reaches its consummation in our day. The perfect law of God, with its Sabbath seal, is the object of Satan’s hatred, and he would swing the world to his side in the conflict. The full salvation provided through faith in Christ is equally the object of his relentless attempts to deny His incarnation, His atoning death, His priestly ministry, and His imminent return in power and glory.
Satan’s wrath is focused on God’s remnant church, the supreme object of divine love and guidance. This church will finally stand as the sole defender of God’s trampled law, to which are joined the full provisions of redemption. Not only is the church as a whole the object of the evil one’s attack, but the individual member as well is harassed, because of maintaining the integrity of the law and the gospel. Through injecting doubt, carelessness, defiance, or repudiation, Satan likewise seeks to turn allegiance from the counsels of the gift of prophecy. Hence the three great issues at stake in this last hour are as clearly and sharply defined as inspiration can disclose them. But these have all become confused in the beliefs and practices among the masses of Christendom.
But now … the question of individual and church relationship to God’s gift stands forth as of supreme importance. My closing words are therefore a plea for the recognition and heeding of this divine provision for the counsel of the church. They are an appeal to the church to keep these matters ever in mind, and to follow them faithfully in practice.
Give Heed to the Heavenly Counsels Mark well, in retrospect, what this gift has meant to this people through the decades of the past. Mark well, how crisis after crisis has been met, and how issue after issue has been successfully faced. Time has vindicated the heavenly counsels in every instance. Consider, by way of impressive comparison and admonition, the days of Israel in the time of Moses, and then ponder our own times as a parallel. Here are the words of Israel’s great leader of old:
“I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil.” “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: that thou mayest love the Lord thy God, and that thou mayest obey His voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto Him: for He is thy life, and the length of thy days.” Deut. 30:15, 19, 20.
Realizing that he was soon to lay down his responsibilities, the aged patriarch, Moses, was giving his final charge to the people whom he had led for forty years, from Egypt to the borders of the Promised Land.
He had great hopes for the future of his beloved people. But knowing, by long experience, their frailties and their weakness at times under temptations and hardships, he also cherished grave fears that they might meet national disaster and defeat. Recognizing that their destiny for weal or woe was conditioned upon their relation to the instruction sent from God, he graphically, and at considerable length, set before them the blessings, temporal and spiritual, that would be theirs if they were obedient, and the curses that would be consequent upon their disobedience. (See Deuteronomy 27, 28.)
Israel’s Failure to Remember When he counseled them to love the Lord God, and to obey His voice, he was thereby exhorting them to heed the messages of counsel and instruction that he, as God’s messenger, had delivered to them. Save for the Ten Commandments, all the laws and testimonies and statutes enjoined upon them had been spoken through Moses. That they should see or hear only the human instrument in nowise lessened the guilt of their rejection of these divine requirements. That is true also, not only of the generation that he personally addressed, but of the men and women of all time.
Moses made provision for these solemn adjurations ever to be kept in remembrance. Parents were to teach them to their children, speaking of them when they were sitting in the house or walking by the way, as well as in the evening and in the morning hours of worship. (Deut. 11:19, 20.) They were to be written for a memorial in a book, and placed in the side of the ark. Every seventh year they were to be taken out and publicly read before the concourse of pilgrims assembled at the Feast of Tabernacles. For this solemn rehearsal of the prophetic writings, they were to gather the men and the women, not forgetting the stranger who was within their gates. The children who were coming to years of understanding were especially mentioned. They were also to hear, and learn to fear the Lord. (See Deut. 31:9-13.)
In view of the failure of Israel of old thus to keep in remembrance the solemn messages that had come through God’s chosen messenger, should not we “upon whom the ends of the world are come” see to it that the instruction that has been given to the remnant church shall be kept vividly in mind?
The Adventist Church’s co-founder reflects on what it means to wait for Jesus
By James White
As we look back upon the great Advent movement, with its joyful expectations and bitter disappointments, its prosperity and adversity, its triumphant victories and its trials, it appears just like the work of God in separating a people from the world, to purify, make white, and try, and thus make them ready for the coming of their Lord. Have Adventists been disappointed? So were the Israelites, in not immediately entering Canaan. And the disciples, as Jesus died upon the cross. Have the faith and patience of Adventists been tried? So were the faith and patience of the Israelites tried in their term of forty years’ wandering in the wilderness. And that of the disciples was severely tested in the unexpected death of their beloved Teacher. Have but comparatively few of the once happy expectants of the King of glory held fast their faith and hope? And have many cast away their confidence in this work and drawn back to perdition? Caleb and Joshua alone, of the six hundred thousand male adults that left Egypt, entered the goodly land. And what of the chosen twelve in the hour of our Lord’s apprehension? “Then all the disciples forsook him and fled” [Matt 26:56].
ADVENTIST FOUNDERS: Just outside the William Miller Chapel on the campus of Atlantic Union College (South Lancaster, Massachusetts, USA), hangs a woodcarving by Adventist artist Wayne Hazen that portrays six of Seventh-day Adventism’s early leaders. From left to right they are: John Nevins Andrews,Review editor, scholar, and the church’s first official missionary; Stephen and Mary Haskell, leaders of New England’s Adventists for nearly 50 years; Captain Joseph Bates, first proponent of Sabbatarian Adventism; James White,Review founder, administrator, and evangelist; and Ellen White, the church’s prophetic messenger and most prolific author.
God has never been able to make anything very great or very good of man. It has been His plan to prove His people in every age, to test their faith and patience. This has been for the good of man and the glory of His name. It was necessary that such noble characters as Noah, Abraham, Job, and Daniel should suffer the severest tests. And how unlike the work of God in all past time, had the many thousands of Adventists triumphantly entered the kingdom at the point of expectation, with hardly a single trial. “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life” [James 1:12]. This is God’s plan. First the cross and the trial, then the crown of unfading glory. As I “call to remembrance the former days,” touching the Advent movement, and see its adaptation to the wants of the people, and God’s great plan of saving men, my soul says, “He hath done all things well.”
It was necessary, in order that the first message should arouse the people and separate those who should receive it from the spirit of the world, that it should not only relate to the fearful realities of the judgment, but also to the period when it might be expected. “Fear God, and give glory to him, for the hour of his judgment is come.” The proclamation of the time was a part of God’s plan. This brought the coming of the Lord very near. This was right. This was necessary to move the people. And when the time passed, instead of calling the attention of believers to some period in the future to which they might look for the coming of the Lord, the Spirit of God sweetly and powerfully applied to their consecrated minds and hearts such passages as, “Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry” [Heb. 10:35-37].
How long this little while would be, no one knew. It was not best that any one should know when it would terminate. And more, it was God’s plan that this should not be known; but that they should move along through the period of the patience of the saints [Rev. 14:12], up to the coming of the Lord, ever keeping that event just before them. Those who have taught the three messages the past twenty years, have all the way presented the coming of Christ at hand. This has been as God designed. And those who would murmur at God’s ministers for this, murmur against the providence of God.
It is painful to hear those who have their faces set toward Egypt complain that the message was not properly preached to them. The coming of the Lord was presented too near. And that if they had understood the matter, they should have laid their plans for the future differently, and now their property might be double its present value. These murmur against the direct providence of God. The coming of the Lord was brought very near in 1844, to rid men of the love of this world, that they might share the love of the Father, and seek a preparation for the coming of his Son. They cannot have both. “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” [1 John 2:15]. And it was designed that the coming of Christ should be viewed near by believers, every step of the Way from the disappointment in 1844 to the gates of the golden city, to keep them free from the love of this world.
An energetic Advent minister, on visiting the believers at Roxbury, Mass[achusetts, United States], being asked, “What is your message now, Bro. B.?” answered, “Come out of her my people.” Soon after the passing of the time he visited that people again, and in reply to the inquiry, “What is your message now, Bro. B.?” made the apt and appropriate reply, “Stay out of her my people.” So Heaven designed that the coming of Christ should be brought very near to tear from men the love of this world, and that in their faith they should ever hold His coming just before them all the way till faith should be lost in the blazing glories of the coming of the Son of man. If we keep the coming of Jesus ever near, and live consistently with such a faith, keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, we may be saved. But remove the coming of the Lord to the distant future, become imbued with the love and spirit of this world, and remain in such a state, and perdition is certain. Let the painful history of the past relative to those who have said in their hearts, “My Lord delayeth his coming,” have apostatized and have been scattered to the world and to Satan, be a warning to all to be ever “looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God” [2 Pet. 3:12].
When the warning voice of the first angel was first heard, it found the nominal churches asleep upon the subject of the Second Advent, dreaming of the world’s conversion. But the truth was clear, and, in the hands of devoted men, was powerful. Everywhere the message was proclaimed it produced general conviction. The Scriptures were searched as never before; a great revolution in religious belief took place in a few short years; and at least fifty thousand inAmerica alone became decided believers. The prophetic times in connection with that message served their purpose, and terminated with that message. The first angel’s message was a time message. The second and third are not time messages. That aroused men in view of the fast approaching judgment. These tell them what they must do to be saved.
James White (1820-1881), along with his wife, Ellen G. White, and Captain Joseph Bates, is considered one of the cofounders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and served as its most prominent early leader, including several terms as president of the church’s General Conference. Born in Maine, (U.S.), White was a Millerite preacher of the second coming of Jesus in the 1840s. In 1846, he married Ellen Gould Harmon, and for the next 35 years their lives were inextricably connected to the growing Advent movement and the organization of the denomination. Founder of the Present Truth and the Review and Herald journals (now the Adventist Review), James White was a prolific author, entrepreneur, editor, and evangelist. This selection is from his autobiographical work, Life Incidents, first published in 1868. All Scriptures quoted are from the King James Version.
How one master’s art influenced another man’s life
By Ron Laing
I was 5 years old when I started visiting my grandparents on their farm in Aroostook County, Maine. Dad had died the year before from war injuries. Suddenly Mother’s parents became a big part of my life. Almost weekly I visited them in what I thought was the biggest farmhouse in the state.
If I stayed for more than a day, Grandma insisted I take an afternoon nap. It didn’t matter to her that I was not tired. “Children need naps,” she’d say. Occasionally she’d let me rest on her and Grandfather’s big bed. I loved the smell of their room—it was like springtime with an aroma of flowers and freshness everywhere. In my childish mind I rationalized that this came from the roses on the wallpaper, but probably it was the perfumes and powders on Grandmother’s dresser.
“Just lie down for a bit, even if you’re not sleepy,” she’d say.
“But Grandma, there are so many things to look at in here, why would I want to go to sleep?” But she had closed the door.
Putting Myself in the Picture
The thing I liked most in the room was a big picture with a brass plate that said in fancy writing, “The Guiding Light,” the same title as one of Grandmother’s favorite radio programs she listened to when I napped. In the picture was a girl about 4 and a boy just a little older walking down a narrow wooded path with steep drop-offs on either side. An angel with wings of grandeur and arms outstretched was walking close behind, a beam of light illuminating their way.
He’s just guiding them along, I thought, imagining that Lorraine, my little sister, and I were the ones on the path. We stopped now and then to watch a butterfly or to smell the blue forget-me-nots beside the path—and then hurried on, careful not to fall down the embankments.
“Come, sleepyhead, we have things we must do before supper.” I heard Grandmother’s voice. Naptime was over, and I hadn’t even been asleep! I tried hard to act like I just awoke. I walked in a wobbly way, wiping sleep from my eyes, but I was never sure Grandma believed my little act.
Years passed and my wife, Carolyn, and I had two little girls of our own. One day we discovered that a gifted artist, Harry Anderson, had painted a picture with a theme much the same as the one that hung in Grandmother’s bedroom. I hung a copy in the bedroom our daughters shared, hoping they’d receive the same nostalgic satisfaction from this picture as I did from Grandmother’s.
Years later Carolyn and I had an opportunity to meet Harry Anderson. New England Memorial Hospital, a medical center north of Boston, was given a monetary donation with the proviso that it “must be used to reflect God’s love to mankind for all people to see.” Anderson had been commissioned to create a painting to embody this theme. Hospital administration, impressed with my cabinetmaking skills, requested I work with him in designing a suitable frame.
On a warm spring day we visited the Andersons in their cozy Connecticut home. Harry was a tall gentleman in the finest and most specific definition of the word: gentle, well spoken, perhaps a bit shy and reserved. The kindness in his eyes made me feel I was seeing right into his soul.
Later we followed him through a flowering apple orchard to his studio. Standing before us in the sunlight was an aged building—all weatherworn, with large windows on three sides. Its faded redwood stain made it blend picturesquely with the landscape. What a wonderful place to work. Inside, the smell of oil paint and turpentine was heavy, and there were dabs of every color of paint one might imagine. The large 8-by-1l-foot painting hung on the wall. Without speaking we gazed at a masterpiece.
Pictured is a hospital sickroom—as real as if we’d walked into the canvas. A young girl lies quietly on white institutional sheets, beside her a concerned doctor. On the other side of the bed, a nurse looks on. The figure beside the doctor is Jesus, His hand resting lightly on the sick girl’s forehead. The solemnity of the scene struck us, yet we felt an unspeakable calmness. We expressed our personal appreciation for this picture. More than ever we felt we were with a man of greatness.
This seemed the right time to tell him of his picture that hung so long in our daughters’ bedroom and the joy it brought our family. He was delighted. “Call me Harry,” he said, “Mr. Anderson is far too formal. Come, let me show you some of my other work. You see, painting is my profession, but carving is my hobby.”
At the house we looked in amazement at sea birds seeming real enough to fly away if startled. Near sunset we got to the reason for our visit. We exchanged ideas for the frame’s design and soon had decided on its esthetics and details. He explained how to properly mount the canvas and even gave me a tool to make my task easier.
“Keep the old tool as a remembrance of our day together,” he said with a twinkle in his eye. Together we rolled $40,000 worth of artwork onto a piece of 5-inch plastic drainpipe and said goodbye. I could hardly wait to start construction and see Anderson’s exquisite painting in our hospital lobby.
A Blessing Preserved
Visitors viewing the piece were in awe of the profound and powerfully conveyed image. For 20 years the piece remained where I hung it; then in 1999, after 100 years of health care service to the community, the 350-bed hospital closed.
For several years I did not know what happened to the Anderson painting, only that it was sold at auction. However, a few years ago I was delighted to learn that a friend, once an administrative intern at New England Memorial Hospital, bought the painting for a hospital where he was president. I visited the hospital in a brand new city called Celebration in central Florida and once again had the privilege to gaze at Anderson’s masterpiece, still in my frame.
I talked with Harry on the phone several times after our visit. I even persuaded him to go to see the painting in its new home. He was delighted at the display and lighting; I was pleased when he smiled widely and approved of the framework.
The tool he gave me so long ago still hangs in my office as a daily reminder of all that’s good in the world. Harry Anderson passed away in November 1996 at the age of 90. Like so many people around the world, our family’s lives were impacted by his images, and we feel we lost a friend.
Ron Laing is a naturalist and photographer of renown who blends his art with his writing—his favorite subject remains his native New England where he resides. He was employed at New England Memorial Hospital (later Boston Regional Medical Center) in Stoneham, Massa- chusetts, for 35 years.