THE SABBATH IN AMERICA
The first Sabbath-keeping church in America - Names of its members - Origin of the second - Organization of the Seventh-day Baptist General Conference - Statistics of the Denomination at that time - Nature of its organization - Present Statistics - Educational facilities - Missionary work - The American Sabbath Tract Society - Responsibility for the light of the Sabbath - The German S.D. Baptists of Pennsylvania - Reference to Sabbath-keepers in Hungary - In Siberia - The Seventh-day Adventists - Their origin - Labors of Joseph Bates - Of James White - The Publishing Association - Systematic Benevolence - The work of the preachers mainly in new fields - Organization of the S.D. Adventists - Statistics - Peculiarities of their faith - Their object - The S.D. Adventists of Switzerland - Why the Sabbath is of priceless value to mankind - The nations of the saved observe the Sabbath in the new earth.
The first Sabbatarian church in America originated at Newport, R.I. The first Sabbath-keeper in America was Stephen Mumford, who left London three years after the martyrdom of John James, and forty-four years after the landing of the pilgrim fathers at Plymouth. Mr. Mumford, it appears, came as a missionary from the English Sabbath-keepers.1 Mr. Isaac Backus, the historian of the early New England Baptists, makes the following record:
"Stephen Mumford came over from London in 1664, and brought the opinion with him that the whole of the ten commandments, as they were delivered from Mount Sinai, were moral and immutable; and that it was the Antichristian power which thought to change times and laws, that changed the Sabbath from the seventh to the first day of the week. Several members of the first church in Newport embraced this sentiment, and yet continued with the church for some years, until two men and their wives who had so done, turned back to the keeping of the first day again."2
Mr. Mumford, on his arrival, went earnestly to work to convert men to the observance of the fourth commandment, as we infer from the following record:
"Stephen Mumford, the first Sabbath-keeper in America, came from London in 1664. Tacy Hubbard commenced keeping the Sabbath, March 11, 1665. Samuel Hubbard commenced April 1, 1665. Rachel Langworthy, January 15, 1666. Roger Baxter, April 15, 1666, and William Hiscox, April 28, 1666. These were the first Sabbath-keepers in America. a controversy, lasting several years, sprung up between them and members of the church. They desired to retain their connection with the church, but were, at last, compelled to withdraw, that they might peaceably enjoy and keep God's holy day."3 [Baxter is Baster in the S.D.B. Memorial.]
Though Mr. Mumford faithfully taught the truth, he seems to have cherished the ideas of the English Sabbatarians, that it was possible for first-day and seventh-day observers to walk together in church fellowship. Had the first-day people been of the same mind, the light of the Sabbath would have been extinguished within a few years, as the history of English Sabbath-keepers clearly proves. But, in the providence of God, the danger was averted by the opposition which these commandment-keepers had to encounter.
Besides the persons above enumerated, four others embraced the Sabbath in 1666, but in 1668 they renounced it. These four were also members of the first-day Baptist church of Newport. Though the Sabbath-keepers who retained their integrity thought that they might lawfully commune with the members of the church who were fully persuaded to observe the first day, yet they felt otherwise with respect to these who had clearly seen the Sabbath, and had for a time observed it, and then apostatized from it. These persons "both wrote and spoke against it, which so grieved them that they could not sit down at the table of the Lord with them, nor with the church because of them." But as they were members of a first-day church, and had "no power to deal with them as of themselves without the help of the church," they "found themselves barred as to proceeding with them, as being but private brethren. So they concluded not to bring the case to the church to judge of the fact, viz., in turning from the observation of the seventh day, being contrary-minded as to that." They therefore sent to the London Sabbath-keepers for advice, and in the mean time refrained from communing with the church.
Dr. Edward Stennet wrote them in behalf of the London Sabbath-keepers: "If the church will hold communion with these apostates from the truth, you ought then to desire to be fairly dismissed from the church; which if the church refuse, you ought to withdraw yourselves."4 They decided, however, not to leave the church. But they told "the church publicly that they could not have comfortable communion with those four persons that had sinned." "And thus for several months they walked with little or no offense from the church; after which the leading or ministering brethren began to declare themselves concerning the ten precepts." Mr. Tory "declared the law to be done away." Mr. Luker and Mr. Clarke "made it their work to preach the non-observation of the law, day after day." But the Sabbath-keepers replied "that the ten precepts were still as holy, just, good, and spiritual, as ever." Mr. Tory "with some unpleasant words said 'that their tune was only the fourth precept,' to which they answered, 'that the whole ten precepts were of equal force with them, and that they did not plead for one without the other.' And they for several years, went on with the church in a halvish kind of fellowship."5
Mr. Bailey thus states the result:
"At the time of their change of sentiment and practice, [respecting the Bible Sabbath], they had no intention of establishing a church with this distinctive feature. God, evidently, had a different mission for them, and brought them to it, through the severe trial of persecution. They were forced to leave the fellowship of the Baptist church, or abandon the Sabbath of the Lord their God."6
"These left the Baptist church on December 7, 1671."7
"On the 23d of December, just sixteen days after withdrawing from the Baptist church, they covenanted together in a church organization."8
Such was the origin of the first Sabbath-keeping church in America.9 The second of these churches owes its origin to this circumstance: About the year 1700, Edmund Dunham of Piscataway, N.J., reproved a person for labor on Sunday. He was asked for his authority from the Scriptures. On searching for this, he became satisfied that the seventh day is the only weekly Sabbath in the Bible, and began to observe it.
"Soon after, others followed his example, and in 1707 a Seventh-day Baptist church was organized, with seventeen members. Edmund Dunham was chosen pastor and sent to Rhode Island to receive ordination."10
The S.D. Baptist General Conference was organized in 1802. At its first annual session, it included in its organization eight churches, nine ordained ministers, and 1130 members.11 The Conference was organized with only advisory powers, the individual churches retaining the matters of discipline and church government in their own hands.12 The Conference now embraces some eighty churches, and about 8000 members. These churches are found in most of he northern and western States, and are divided into five associations, which, however, have no legislative nor disciplinary power over the churches which compose them. There are, belonging to the denomination, five academies, one college, "and a university with academic, collegiate, mechanical, and theological departments in operation."13 The S.D. Baptist missionary society sustains several home missionaries who labor principally on the western and southern borders of the denomination. They have within a few years past met with a good degree of success in this work. It has also a missionary station at Shanghai, China, and a small church there of faithful Christians.
The American Sabbath Tract Society is the publishing agency of the denomination. Its headquarters are at Alfred Center, N.Y. It publishes the Sabbath Recorder, the organ of the S.D. Baptists, and it also publishes a series of valuable works relating to the Sabbath and the law of God.
During the two hundred years which have elapsed since the organization of the first Sabbatarian church in America, God has raised up among this people men of eminent talent and moral worth. He has also in providential ways called attention to the sacred trust which he so long since confided to the S.D. Baptists, and which they have been slow to realize in its immense importance.
Among those converted to the Sabbath through the agency of this people, the name of J.W. Morton is particularly worthy of honorable mention. He was sent in 1847 a missionary to the island of Haiti by the Reformed Presbyterians. Here he came in contact with Sabbatarian publications, and after a serious examination became satisfied that the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord. As an honest man, what he saw to be truth he immediately obeyed, and returning home to be tried for his heresy, was summarily expelled from the Reformed Presbyterian church without being suffered to state the reasons which had governed his conduct. He has given to the world a valuable work, entitled, "Vindication of the True Sabbath," in which his experience is related, and his reasons for observing the seventh day set forth with great force and clearness.
There is also in the State of Pennsylvania a small body of German S.D. Baptist found in the counties of Lancaster, York, Franklin, and Bedford, and in the central and western parts of the State. They originated in 1728 from the teaching of Conrad Beissel, a native of Germany. They practice trine immersion, and the washing of feet, and observe open communion. They encourage celibacy, but make it obligatory upon none. Even those who have chosen this manner of life are at liberty to marry if at any time they choose so to do. They established and successfully maintained a Sabbath-school at Ephrata, their head-quarters, forty years before Robert Raikes had introduced the system of Sunday-schools. This people have suffered much persecution because of their observance of the seventh day, the laws of Pennsylvania being particularly oppressive toward Sabbatarians.15 The German S.D. Baptists do not belong to the S.D. Baptist General Conference.
We have already noticed the fact that Sabbath-keepers are numerous in Russia, in Poland, and in Turkey. We find the following statement respecting Sabbath-keepers in Hungary:
"A Congregation of seventh-day Christians in Hungary, being refused tolerance by the laws, has embraced Judaism, in order to be allowed to exist in connection with one of the 'received religions.' "16
The probability is that as the laws of the Austrian Empire bear very heavily upon all religious bodies not belonging to some one of the tolerated sects or orders, these "Seventh-day Christians" on "being refused tolerance" in their own name, secured the privilege of observing the seventh day by allowing their doctrine to be classed by the civil authorities under the head of Judaism, and so bringing themselves under the tolerance accorded to the "received religions." We do not say that this was right, even as a technicality, but it is evidently the extent of what they did. There is no reason to believe that they abjured Christ. We also learn that there are Sabbath-keepers in the north of Asia:
"There is a sect of Greek Christians in Siberia who keep the Jewish Sabbath (Saturday). Such sects already exist in the United States, in Germany, and we believe in England."17
The Sabbath was first introduced to the attention of the Advent people at Washington, N.H. A faithful Seventh-day Baptist sister, Mrs. Rachel D. Preston, from the State of New York, having removed to this place, brought with her the Sabbath of the Lord. Here she became interested in the doctrine of the glorious advent of the Saviour at hand. Being instructed in this subject by the Advent people, she in turn instructed them in the commandments of God, and as early as 1844, nearly the entire church in that place, consisting of about forty persons, became observers of the Sabbath of the Lord.18 The oldest body of Sabbath-keepers among the Seventh-day Adventists is therefore at Washington, N.H. Its present number is small, for it has been thinned by emigration and by the ravages of death; but there still remains a small company to bear witness to this ancient truth of the Bible.
From this place, several Advent ministers received the Sabbath truth during the year 1844. One of these was Eld. T.M. Preble, who has the honor of first bringing this great truth before the Adventists through the medium of the press. His essay was dated Feb. 13, 1845. He presented briefly the claims of the Bible Sabbath, and showed that it was not changed by the Saviour, but was changed by the great apostasy. He then said:
"Thus we see Dan.7:25, fulfilled, the little horn changing 'times and laws.' Therefore it appears to me that all who keep the first day for the Sabbath, are Pope's Sunday-keepers, and God's Sabbath breakers."19
Within a few months many persons began to observe the Sabbath as the result of the light thus shed on their pathway. Eld. J.B. Cook, a man of decided talent as a preacher and a writer, was one of these early converts to the Sabbath. Elders Preble and Cook were at this time in full vigor of their mental powers, and were possessed of talent and a reputation for piety, which gave them great influence among the Adventists in behalf of the Sabbath. These men were called in the providence of God to fill an important place in the work of Sabbath reform.
But both of them, while preaching and writing in its behalf, committed the fatal error of making it of no practical importance. They had apparently the same fellowship for those who rejected the Sabbath that they had for those who observed it. Such a course of action produced its natural result. After two or three years of this kind of Sabbath observance, each of these men apostatized from it, and thenceforward used what influence they possessed in warring against the fourth commandment. The larger part of those who embraced the Sabbath from their labors were not sufficiently impressed with its importance to become settled and grounded in its weighty evidences, and, after a brief period, they turned back from its observance. But enough had been done to excite bitter opposition toward the Sabbath on the part of many Adventists, and to bring out the ingenious and plausible arguments by which men attempt to prove that God has abolished his own sacred law.
Such was the fruit of their course, and such the condition of things at the time of their defection. But the result of their plan of action taught the Advent Sabbath-keepers a lesson of value, which they have never forgotten. They learned that the fourth commandment must be treated as a part of the moral law, if men are ever to be led to its sacred observance.
Eld. Preble's first article in behalf of the Sabbath was the means of calling the attention of our venerable brother, Joseph Bates, to this divine institution. He soon became convinced of its obligation, and at once began to observe it. He had acted quite a prominent part in the Advent movement of 1843-4, and now, with self-sacrificing zeal, he took hold of the despised Sabbath truth to set it before this fellow-men. He did not do it in the half-way manner of Elders Preble and Cook, but as a man thoroughly in earnest and fully alive to the importance of his subject.
The subject of the heavenly Sanctuary began about this time to interest many Adventists, and especially Eld. Bates. He was one of the first to see that the central object of that Sanctuary is the ark of God. He also called attention to the proclamation of the third angel relative to God's commandments. He girded on the armor to lay it down only when his work should be accomplished. He has been instrumental in leading many to the observance of the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, and few who have received the Sabbath from his teaching have apostatized from it.20
It was but a few months after Eld. Bates, that our esteemed and efficient brother, Eld. James White, also embraced the Sabbath. He had labored with much success in the great Advent movement, and he now entered heartily into the work of Sabbath reform. Uniting with Eld. Bates in the proclamation of the doctrine of the advent and the Sabbath as connected together in the Sanctuary and the message of the third angel, he has, with the blessing of God, accomplished great results in behalf of the Sabbath.
The publishing interests of the Seventh-day Adventists originated through his instrumentality. He began the work of publishing in 1849, without resources, and with very few friends, but with much toil, self-sacrifice, and anxious care; and with the blessing of God upon his efforts, he has been the means of establishing an efficient office of publication, and of disseminating many important works throughout our country, and, to some extent, to other nations also. The publication of the Advent Review and Herald of the Sabbath, the organ of the Seventh-day Adventists, was commenced by him in 1850. For most of the years of its existence, he has served as one of its editors; and for all its earlier years, he was both publisher and sole editor. During this time, he has also labored with energy as a minister of the gospel of Christ.
The wants of the cause demanding an enlargement of capital and more extensive operations, to this end an Association was incorporated in the city of Battle Creek, Michigan, May 3, 1861, under the name of the Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association. This Association owns three commodious publishing houses, with engine, power presses, and all the fixtures necessary for doing an extensive business. There are about fifty persons constantly employed in this work of publication. The Association has a capital of about $70,000. Under God, it owes its prosperity to the prudent management and untiring energy of Eld. James White.
The Advent Review has at the present time (Nov., 1873) a circulation of about 5000 copies. The Youth's Instructor, a monthly paper designed for the children of Sabbath-keeping Adventists, began to be issued in 1852, and has now attained a circulation of nearly 5000 copies.
The Advent Tidende, a Danish monthly with a circulation of 800, is publish for the benefit of those who speak the Danish and Norwegian tongues, of whom a considerable number have embraced the Sabbath.
The S.D. Adventists have taken a strong interest in the subject of hygiene and the laws of health, and have established a Health Institute as Battle Creek, Mich., which publishes the Health Reformer, a monthly journal, magazine form, having a circulation of nearly 5000 copies.
Numerous publications on Prophecy, the Signs of the Times, the Coming of Christ, the Sabbath, the Law of God, the Sanctuary, &c., &c., have been issued within the past twenty years, and have had an extensive circulation, amounting, in the aggregate, to many millions of pages.
The ordinary financial wants of the cause are sustained by a method of collecting means known as Systematic Benevolence. By this system, it is designed that each friend of the cause shall pay a certain sum weekly proportioned to the property which he possesses. But there is no compulsion in this matter. In this manner the burden is borne by all, so that it rests heavily upon none; and the means needed for the work flows with a steady stream into the treasury of the several churches, and finally into that of the State Conferences. A settlement is instituted each year at the State Conferences, in which the labors, receipts, and expenditures, of each minister are carefully considered. Thus none are allowed to waste means, and none who are recognized as called of God to the ministry are allowed to suffer.
The churches sustain their meetings for the most part without the aid of preaching. They raise means to sustain the servants of Christ, but bid them mainly devote their time and strength to save those who have not the light of these important truths shining upon their pathway. So they go out everywhere preaching the word of God, as his providence guides their feet. During the summer months, the work in new fields is carried forward principally by means of large tents, which enable the preacher to provide a suitable place of worship, wherever he may think it desirable to labor.
The Seventh-day Adventists have thirteen State Conferences, which assemble annually in their respective States. These bear the names of Maine, Vermont, New England, New York and Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri and Kansas, and California. These Conferences are designed to meet the local wants of the cause. There is also a General Conference, which assemblies yearly, composed of delegates from the State Conferences. This Conferences takes the general oversight of the work in all the State Conferences, supplying the more destitute with laborers as far as possible, and uniting the whole strength of the body for the accomplishment of the work. It also takes the charge of missionary labor in those States which have no organized Conferences.
There are about fifty ministers who devote their whole time to the work of the gospel. There is also a considerable number who preach a portion of the time and devote the remainder to secular labor. There are about 6000 members in the several Conference organizations. But such is the scattered condition of this people (for they are found in all the northern States and in several of the southern), that a very large portion have no connection with its organization. They are to be found in single families scattered all the way from Maine to California and Oregon. The Review and Instructor constitute, in a great number of cases, the only preachers of their faith.
Those subjects which more especially interest this people, are the fulfillment of prophecy, the second personal advent of the Saviour as an event now near at hand, immortality through Christ alone, a change of heart through the operation of the Holy Spirit, the observance of the Sabbath of the fourth commandment, the divinity and mediatorial work of Christ, and the development of a holy character by obedience to the perfect and holy law of God.21
They are very strict with regard to the ordinance of baptism, believing not only that it requires men to be buried in the watery grave, but that even such baptism is faulty if administered to those who are breaking one of the ten commandments. They also believe that our Lord's direction in John 13 should be observed in connection with the supper.
They teach that the gifts of the Spirit set forth in 1Cor.12 and Eph.4, were designed to remain in the church till the end of time. They believe that these were lost in consequence of the same apostasy that changed the Sabbath. They also believe that in the final restoration of the commandments by the work of the third angel, the gifts of the Spirit of God are restored with them. So the remnant of the church, or last generation of its members, is said to "keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ."22 And the angel of God explains this by saying, "The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."23 The spirit of prophecy therefore has a distant place assigned to it in the final work of Sabbath reform. Such are their views of this portion of Scripture; and their history from the beginning has been marked by the influence of this sacred gift.
In the face of strong opposition, the people known as Seventh-day Adventists have arisen to bear their testimony for the Sabbath of the Lord. They have had perils from open foes, and from false brethren; but they have thus far overcome the difficulties of the way, and from each have gathered strength for the conflict before them. They have a definite work which they hope to accomplish. It is to make ready a people prepared for the advent of the Lord.
Honorable mention should be made of the Seventh-day Adventists of Switzerland. They first learned these precious truths from Elder M.B. Czechowski, who a few years since instructed them in the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. Since his labors with them ceased, God has given them strength to stand with firmness for his truth, and has added to their numbers. They have a heart to obey the truth and to sacrifice for its advancement. They number about sixty persons. There are a few individuals of this faith also in Italy, Germany, and Denmark.
The observance of the Sabbath is sometimes advocated on the ground that man needs a day of rest and will grow prematurely old if he labor seven days in each week, which is doubtless true; and it has also been advocated on the ground that God will bless in basket and in store those who hallow his Sabbath, which may be true in many cases; but the Bible does not urge motives of this kind in respect to this sacred institution. Without doubt there are great incidental advantages in the observance of the Sabbath. But these are not what God sets before us as the reasons for its observance. The true reason is infinitely higher than all considerations of this kind, and should constrain men to obey, even were it certain that it would cost them all that is dear in the present life.
The Sabbath has been advocated on the ground that it secures to men a day for divine worship in which by common consent they may appear before God. This is a very important consideration, and yet the Bible says little concerning it. It is one of the incidental blessings of the Sabbath, and not the chief reason for its observance. The Sabbath was ordained to commemorate the creation of the heavens and the earth.
The importance of the Sabbath as the memorial of creation is that it keeps ever present the true reason why worship is due to God. For the worship of God is based upon the fact that he is the Creator and that all other beings were created by him. The Sabbath therefore lies at the very foundation of divine worship, for it teaches this great truth in the most impressive manner, and no other institution does this. The true ground of divine worship, not of that on the seventh day merely, but of all worship, is found in the distinction between the Creator and his creatures. This great fact can never become obsolete, and must never be forgotten. To keep it in man's mind, God gave to him the Sabbath. He received it in his innocency, and notwithstanding the perversity of his professed people, God has preserved this sacred institution through the entire period of man's fallen state.
The four and twenty elders in the very act of worshiping Him who sits upon the throne, state the reason why worship is due to God:
"Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created."24
This great truth is therefore worthy to be remembered even in the glorified state. And we shall presently learn that what God gave to man in Paradise, to keep this great truth before his mind, shall be honored by him in Paradise restored.
The future is given to us in the prophetic Scriptures. From them we learn our earth is reserved unto fire, and that from its ashes shall spring new heavens and earth, and ages of endless date.25 Over this glorified inheritance, the second Adam, the Lord of the Sabbath, shall bear rule, and under his gracious protection the nations of them which are saved shall inherit the land forever.26 When the glory of the Lord shall thus fill the earth as the waters cover the sea, the Sabbath of the Most High is again and for the last time brought to view:
"For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make shall remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain. And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord."27
Does not Paul refer to these very facts set forth by Isaiah when he says, "There remaineth therefore a rest [Greek, Sabbatismos, literally "A KEEPING OF THE SABBATH"] to people of God"?28 The reason for this monthly gathering to the New Jerusalem of all the host of the redeemed from every part of the new earth may be found in the language of the Apocalypse:
"And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits and yielded her fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing [literally, the service]29 of the nations."30
The gathering of the nations that are saved to the presence of the Creator, from the whole face of the new earth on each successive Sabbath, even in that holy state, and sets the seal of the Most High to the perpetuity of this ancient institution.
1 "When the London Seventh-day Baptists, in 1664, sent Stephen Mumford to America, and in 1675 sent Eld. William Gibson, they did as much, in proportion to their ability, as had been done by any society for propagating the gospel in foreign parts." - Seventh-day Baptist Memorial, vol. i. p. 43. <Return>
14 Much interesting matter pertaining to the Seventh-day Baptists of America may be found in Utter's Manual of the S.D. Baptists; Bailey's Hist. of the S.D. Bapt. Gen. Conf.; Lewis's Sabbath and Sunday, and in the S.D.B. Memorial. <Return>
18 This sister was born at Vernon, Vt. Her maiden name was Rachel D. Harris. At the age of seventeen, she was converted and soon after joined the Methodist church. After her marriage, she removed with her husband to central New York. There, at the age of twenty-eight, she became an observer of the Bible Sabbath. The Methodist minister, her pastor, did what he could to turn her from the Sabbath, but finally told her she might keep it if she would not leave them. But she was faithful to her convictions of duty and united with the first Seventh-day Baptist church of Verona, Oneida Co., N.Y. Her first husband bore the name of Oaks; her second, that of Preston. She and her daughter, Delight Oaks, were members of the first Verona church at the time of their removal to Washington, N.H. The mother died Feb. 1, 1868; the daughter, several years earlier. <Return>
19 Eld. Preble's article appeared in the Hope of Israel of Feb. 28, 1845, published at Portland, Maine. This article was reprinted in the Advent Review of Aug. 23, 1870. The article, as rewritten by Eld. Preble and published in tract form, was also printed in the Review of Dec. 21, 1869. <Return>
21 For a further knowledge of their views, see their weekly paper, the Advent Review and Herald of the Sabbath, published at Battle Creek, Michigan, at $2.00 per year, and the list of publications advertised in its columns. <Return>
25 2Pet.3; Isa.65; Rev.21, 22. Milton thus states this doctrine:
28 Heb.4:9. The margin renders it "a keeping of a Sabbath." Liddell and Scott define Sabbatismos "a keeping of the Sabbath." They give no other definition, but derive it from the verb Sabbatizo, which they define by these words only, "to keep the Sabbath." Schrevelius defines Sabbatismos by this one phrase: "Observance of the Sabbath." He also derives it from Sabbatizo. Sabbatismos is therefore the noun in Greek which signifies the act of Sabbath-keeping, while Sabbatizo, from which it is derived, is the verb which expresses the act. <Return>