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March were appointed by the General Conference to be thus observed. James White said of the season in Battle Creek:
"Never have we realized such intensity of feeling, such drawing of the spirit to the very throne of heaven, such confidence in the answer of fervent prayers, as during these days of humiliation and prayer."- Review and Herald, April 25, 1865.
In a very few weeks after the March appointment came the welcome news that the war was over and bloodshed at an end.
Throughout their history, Seventh-day Adventists have had conscientious scruples against engaging in war. They have felt that their mission was not to destroy men, but to save them; not to take life, but to preserve it. Whether in America or in other lands, under other flags, their attitude has ever been one of loyalty to existing governments, not as partisans, but as lawabiding sojourners, wherever their lot was cast.
The war over, the work began once more to make rapid advancement. Evangelistic efforts were multiplied, a number of new men were called to the ministry, and the improvements in denominational organization enabled them to receive some measure of support. Especially encouraging was the steady growth and development in the Middle West. The wisdom of the steps taken in moving the publishing work to Battle Creek became more and more apparent. It placed the headquarters of the cause, then in its infancy, in a section of the country populated largely by intelligent, progressive farmers and tradesmen, men who had a hold on the realities of life, and who were not spoiled by over-refinement and the spirit of religious indifference that is so liable to prevail in older and more wealthy communities. It gave the best of scope to the Adventist preachers, who were of much the same mold as the circuit riders of early Methodist days,- men of large build physically, of great endurance, of limited education in the schools, but well versed in the Scriptures and in human nature, and above all else, men with a message,- a definite, clear-cut evangel that came home to men's hearts, moving many to obedience.
With poor traveling facilities and extensive journeys to make, it was often necessary for the preachers to be absent from their families months at a time. Captain Bates wrote in the
spring of 1858:
"On the 14th inst., I came to my family in safety after an absence of nearly six months. I thank and praise the Lord for preserving them and unworthy me, and permitting us to meet again. I thank the dear brethren where I have passed on from Michigan to Massachusetts for assisting me with means to defray my necessary expenses."- Review and Herald, May 6, 1858; Vol. XI, No. 25, p. 198.
Long absences were especially trying in the case of the younger men, whose slender means made it impossible for them to make proper provision for the comfort of their loved ones. One young licentiate returned home in the midst of a northern winter to find his wife and child living in a summer kitchen built of a single layer of rough boards, with open floor, and with no provisions on hand except a little cornmeal and some frosted potatoes. The situation was unavoidable, for there was no money with which to pay rent, and this shed could be had rent free. And yet that faithful wife had not a word of blame to offer, but only continued to offer up importunate prayers that her husband might be successful in saving souls.
There were noble women in those days as well as noble men, and they wrought as earnestly and faithfully as their husbands. Some of them have long since passed away, but their faithfulness and self-sacrifice still linger in the memory of all who knew them. Their children, well along in years themselves, rise up and call them blessed.
Not all the credit for the work done in the early days is due to the ministers and their wives. The lay members were remarkably active, often going out alone and single-handed, and by their simple testimony, backed up by earnest Christian living, winning converts to the faith. At a social meeting held in La Porte, Ind., in the late fifties, different members told of how they were brought to a knowledge of the truth. Said one member:
"When Brother [George] Smith came here, some little while ago, and wanted some one to go with him, he found me and showed me the truth, and then he found another, and still others."
A sister then told her experience:
"Sister Place came after me again and again. She would come and read the books and the papers and the Bible to me, and I was unwilling to believe. But now I bless God she ever came to give me the light."- Review and Herald, Jan. 21, 1858.
Not only were the churches often raised up with very little ministerial help, but they learned to sustain themselves spiritually by frequently uniting with neighboring companies in grove meetings and monthly gatherings and convocations of various kinds. The following is a typical report of one of these gatherings:
"The monthly meeting for Tuscola County, Mich., was held at Vassar according to appointment. A goodly number of friends came from Watrousville and Tuscola, and we were glad to meet with them. We hoped to have the presence of a messenger to teach us, but as Providence had otherwise ordered, we did the very best we could by ourselves. Our elder read for
our benefit several texts out of the Word, and gave his mind on the same, after which we had a social meeting, nearly every one taking part. We believe that all were satisfied, and felt that it was good to wait before the Lord. . . . We feel more than ever to thank God for the light of present truth, and it is our determination by His assisting grace to be more faithful in the future, and live nearer to Him."- Id., Feb. 19, 1867.
Many of the churches carried on vigorous evangelistic work of various kinds, resulting in a steady growth in membership. In the village of Avon, Wis., the message was first preached in the late fifties by Isaac Sanborn. A little company embraced the Sabbath; and during the next few years, with scarcely any ministerial help, but by means of systematic work with papers, tracts, and pamphlets, the company grew to a substantial church of nearly a hundred believers. In due time a meeting house was erected, the first one of the kind west of Battle Creek, and the third church building erected by the denomination. Preachers seldom visited the church, but when they came, there were always new converts awaiting baptism.
The older churches would adopt resolutions from time to time, with a view to giving definite shape to their ideals and aspirations toward higher living. The church at Allegan, Mich., passed the following at a special meeting held early in 1867:
"WHEREAS, We hold the advancement of the cause of present truth to
be paramount in importance to everything else; and,
"WHEREAS, This is rapid or slow, according as those who are engaged in presenting it to the people are consistent or inconsistent in their lives; therefore,
"Resolved, First, That we will make an earnest, persistent, and prayerful effort to the end that our daily walk shall at all times and under all circumstances be characterized by that meekness in deportment, that patience and forbearance under difficulties and annoyances, that integrity in matters of deal, that sobriety, sincerity, and chastity in conversation, which are always essential qualities of the Christian character, but which are peculiarly so at the present time. . . .
Fifth, That in our opinion, prayer and conference meetings, both on the Sabbath and on week-day evenings, are essential helps to growth in grace. And that it is a duty which we owe to the Lord, to ourselves, and to the cause, to see to it that we are not prevented from attending them by obstacles which we have it in our power to remove.
"Sixth, That as the perils of the last days thicken around us, and the attacks of the enemy upon the remnant become more fierce, frequent, and protracted than ever before, we can find security only in a corresponding increase of efforts on our part for higher attainments in godliness. And that, as a means for the accomplishment of this end, we, the church in Allegan, deem it advisable to hold two evening prayer meetings a week instead of one as heretofore."- Ibid.
It was such ministers and such churches that laid firm and deep the foundations of the work in the Middle West.
"Let all things be done decently and in order." 1 Cor. 14: 40.
IN taking up the subject assigned to this chapter, we shall need to retrace our steps a little in order to obtain a clear understanding of the development from the beginning, in the Adventist denomination, of the principle of gospel order. It is necessary first to remember the conditions under which the Adventists under Mr. Miller's preaching were separated from the churches of which they had been members. They were in many cases expelled in a very summary manner. No opportunity was given them for defense, nor was any account taken of the teachings of the Bible.
This arbitrary action on the part of the churches created in many Adventists a strong feeling against church organization as such, which they were inclined to regard as a form of ecclesiastical despotism. George Storrs wrote:
"Take care that you do not seek to organize another church. No church can be organized by man's invention but what it becomes Babylon the moment it is organized. The Lord organized His own church by the strong bond of love. Stronger than that cannot be made; and when such bonds I will not hold together the professed followers of Christ, they cease to be His followers, and drop off from the body as a matter of course."