From the book
THE INCREDIBLE HISTORY OF GOD’S TRUE CHURCH #12
by Ivor C. Fletcher
The New World
During the period when the Church of God in England was suffering some of its most severe persecution, Jesus Christ caused His Church to be established in America. It was here, in the area which was later to become the United States of America, that the new congregations, free from much of the persecution and other restrictions suffered in England, would have a new base from which to flourish and grow.
"Who was the first Sabbath keeper in America? It is not known, but the first recorded Sabbatarian was Stephen Mumford, who came to America in 1664. There may have been others prior to Mumford, for as early as 1646, Sabbath discussion embroiled New England. Some of the earliest books published in America supported the keeping of the seventh day Sabbath. The Baptist historian Griffiths reports that the earliest Sabbath keepers were at Newport, Rhode Island, in 1644. "It is said that in the province of Rhode Island, there were adherents of that faith [Sabbath keepers] at its early settlement contemporary with the founding of the first Baptist Church."1
"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 day church in Newport embraced this sentiment, and yet continued with the church for some years, until two men and their wives who had done so, turned back to the keeping of the first day again."2
Mumford, who originally came from Tewkesbury, was sent to Newport, Rhode Island, by the Bell Lane Sabbatarian Church of London. He was not a minister.
"There is no doubt that Stephen Mumford decided to migrate across the Atlantic Ocean because of the difficult circumstances in which not only the Seventh Day Baptists but other Baptists and Dissenters found themselves in England at the time. They hoped to find greater freedom over the seas."3
When King Charles II came to the throne in 1660 the measure of religious freedom that had been permitted during the time of Oliver Cromwell was not to continue.
Several Acts of Parliament were passed designed to enforce uniformity of religion in Britain, which in effect meant conformity to the teachings of the Church of England.
"The third Act was the Conventicle Act of 1664 which forbade the assembly of more than five people in addition to the family of the house for religious services except according to the Prayer Book, under penalty of fines and transportation. For the third offence they could be banished to the American plantations, excepting New England and Virginia. If they should return or escape, death was the penalty. Many were sent to the West Indies where they endured great hardship. Vast numbers suffered in all parts of England and Wales. It is said that 8000 perished in prison during the days of Charles II. It may have been this Act which led Stephen Mumford to decide to migrate to Rhode Island, to banish himself by so doing rather than wait for the Government to do it."4
Further information on Mumford's arrival in Rhode Island is given by Richard Nickels.
"Mumford may have been induced to come by Dr. John Clarke, pastor of the Newport First-Day Baptist church, who was agent of the colony to the court of King Charles II. The King's charter held by Clarke granted 'unlimited toleration in religion to all people of Rhode Island.' Mumford could thus be escaping religious persecution by coming to the New World. Mumford did not succumb to Sunday-keeping, nor did he keep his Sabbath beliefs to himself. Apparently on October 6, 1665 he wrote to several Sabbatarian churches in England for advice. The first of his 'converts,' called 'the first person upon the continent to begin the observance of the Bible Sabbath' . . . was a woman, Tacy Hubbard, wife of Samuel Hubbard, who commenced its observance a little later. . . .The Hubbards joined Mumford in Sabbath observance in 1665. The group increased with Ruth Burdick, wife of Robert in 1665, and Rachel Langworthy, wife of Andrew (daughter of the Hubbards), and Bethiah and Joseph Clark in 1667, living in Misquamicut, Rhode Island. Apparently they continued to go to church on Sunday and also met in private homes on Saturday. Others who embraced the Sabbath were William Hiscox, Roger Baster, Nicholas Wild and wife, and John Solomon and wife."1
Problems and persecution for the little group were not long in coming. John Clarke and several other local ministers began to preach against them, charging them with being heretics and schismatics. Clarke taught that all of the ten commandments were done away.
[YA AND MANY IN THE MIDDLE 20TH CENTURY WERE DOING THE SAME, PROBABLY STILL DOING SO, TURNING GRACE INTO A LICENSE TO SIN, BUT WHEN CORNERED ON THE POINT THEY AGREED 9 OF THE 10 SHOULD BE FOLLOWED - Keith Hunt]
Early in 1669 four of the Sabbath keepers (the Wilds and Solomons) renounced their faith and returned to Sunday worship. This action deeply disturbed the other Sabbath keepers who were perplexed by the question. Should we continue to fellowship with a church which includes apostates?
They wrote to the church in London for advice and guidance. Dr. Edward Stennett wrote to them from London as follows:
"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, and not be partakers of other men's sins. . . ." The letter was dated March 6, 1670.6
Dr. Stennett's letter was one of several which were written from England to encourage the infant Sabbath keeping church in America.
"Before this the Bell Lane Church in London, which seems to have been gathered by John Belcher the bricklayer in 1662, kept in touch with Stephen Mumford at Newport. Their letter was dated 26 March, 1668, four years after he had migrated, and signed by eleven members of Bell Lane. Among these signatures appear the names of Belcher and William Gibson who later came to Newport and was the second pastor of the Seventh Day Baptist Church there. A month before this on 2 February, 1668 Edward Stennett wrote to Newport from his place in Abingdon, Berkshire. Another Sabbath-keeper in England wrote to those in Newport two years later. This was Joseph Davis, Sr., who had accepted the Sabbath in 1668 and was in prison at Oxford Castle in 1670 as a result of a fresh wave of persecution for attending conventicles. It would seem that those in Newport had heard of him because they wrote to him on 4 July 1669, and to this letter he replied that Baptists and Independents were preaching against the Sabbath. He exhorted the Sabbath-keepers on Rhode Island not to be discouraged by opposition."7
In June, 1671 the trials of the Newport group reached a climax when Elder Holmes preached a blistering sermon against the Sabbath-keepers, claiming that the ten commandments were given to the Jews but were not binding on Gentiles. Several meetings were held to discuss the points of difference between the two factions.
William Hiscox pointed out that "The ground of our difference is, that you and others deny God's law." It took the Sabbath-keepers over six years to learn the lesson that it is not possible to keep the Sabbath and, at the same time, remain in a church which kept a different day and preached against God's law. They withdrew from further fellowship with the Sunday congregation and formed a new Sabbath-keeping church in December, 1671.
"In 1671 . . . Stephen Mumford, William Hiscox, Samuel Hubbard, Roger Baster, and three sisters, entered into church covenant together, thus forming the first Seventh-day Baptist Church in America."8
"For more than thirty years after its organisation, the Newport church included nearly all persons observing the seventh day in the states of Rhode Island and Connecticut. . . ."9
Although Baptist historians almost always define these early American Sabbatarian congregations as "Seventh Day Baptist," it becomes very clear when reading the actual records left by these people that they considered themselves to be "the Church of God" at Piscataway, New Jersey, or “the Church of God dwelling at Shrewsbury’” (New Jersey).10
It was fortunate that the close relationship which the Sabbath-keepers had with other churches ceased at an early date. If this had not been so they would quickly have lost many of the distinctive features of their faith.
"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.
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.”11
For a time growth in church membership was slow. The entire population of the Rhode Island colony was less than 3,000; the inhabitants found themselves in conflict with the Indians and also in dispute with Massachusetts and Connecticut over boundaries. Four other people soon joined the original seven.
"Owing to the fact that the roll of the Church for many years is not extant, if one was kept at all, it is difficult to tell in some cases who did belong to the church."12
Records of the Newport Church begin in 1692. Samuel Hubbard reported that in 1678 there were 37 Sabbatarians in America; 20 in Newport, 7 at Westerly (also known as Hopkinton) and 10 at New London, Connecticut.13
Three years later the number of members reached 51; of this group two were Indians.
"William Hiscox, the first minister, served from 1671 to his death in 1704. When, if ever, he was ordained, is unknown. In 1675, Mumford went to London, and on October 16, 1675, he returned with a new assistant elder, William Gibson, of the Bell Lane church. Gibson was probably already ordained when he arrived, for he preached at New London, and eventually settled at Westerly. Gibson worked effectively against the Rogerine sect, and upon Hiscox's death, he became full pastor."14
"As time went on, many of the Newport members moved on to the western wilderness of Westerly and Waterford and as early as 1680 a branch of the Newport Church was established on the banks of the Pawcatuck River at Meetinghouse Bridge in Westerly which was known for nearly half a century as the Sabbatarian Church of Westerly. These early settlers went back and forth to Newport when Indian raids were threatened particularly at the time of King Phillip's war in 1675, travelling by boat. Many of the members of the Newport Church were outstanding citizens of the times and some were intimates of Roger Williams. The Redwood Library, the first library to be established in the Colonies, was erected on a site given by Henry Collins, a Seventh Day Baptist and a well known goldsmith, benefactor of the arts, and contributor to many projects which would make better business men and better citizens."15
Members were received into these early New England churches by profession of faith, baptism and the laying on of hands.
"The great majority of the Tree Inhabitants of the Towne of Westerly' on a list dated May 18,1669, at the time were or later were to become members of this church. Also, outstanding Rhode Island leaders of the pre-revolutionary era during the struggle for independence from England, notably Samuel Ward, Joshua Babcock and others, were members of this church. At Boom Bridge, a large tree was felled, mounted on a post in a horizontal position, weighed at the short end and so adjusted that it could support an individual at the long end and swung around to reach the far bank. The bolder Sabbatarians took this shorter route to church risking an occasional dunking while others chose the 'Saturday Path,' safer but longer. Boom Bridge derives its name from this novel apparatus."16
By 1683 the American churches had realized the need of closer personal contact between the members. With one church at Newport, on an island, and various scattered members on the mainland, they found great difficulty in meeting together as a group.
On October 31 of that year Hubbard wrote to Elder William Gibson, who at the time was living in New London:
"O that we could have a general meeting! but winter is coming upon us."
The first "General Meeting" was held in late May, 1684, shortly after Pentecost. All the brethren in New London, Westerly, Narraganset, Providence, Plymouth Colony and Martha's Vineyard were invited to attend.
"The object of this meeting was to bring the members, so widely scattered together at a communion season."17 This was the first recorded general meeting of Sabbath-keepers in America. According to Hubbard 26 or 27 people were in attendance. Prayers were given and discussion took place on several doctrinal issues. By this time, more members lived on the mainland than at Newport. Sabbath keepers had lived at Westerly since 1666, converts of Mumford. At a yearly meeting of the Church, at Westerly, on September 28, 1708 (New Style), the decision was made to separate into two churches. There were 72 at Westerly and 41 at Newport. [The Feast of Tabernacles for that year started Saturday, September 29]. Previously it was common to hold the yearly meeting at Westerly. Its first elder, John Maxson, was ordained October 1, 'by fasting and prayer and laying on of hands.’”18
There are strong indications that many of these annual meetings took place either during the fall Holy Day season or near Pentecost. Although these people probably had only a limited knowledge of God's Plan of Salvation, pictured by these days, they were at least attempting to follow the Holy Day pattern that God had ordained.
[MAYBE….PENTECOST WAS OBSERVED BY MANY CATHOLIC AND PROTESTANT CHURCHES AS IT FALLS ON A SUNDAY. WERE THESE SABBATH KEEPERS KEEPING PASSOVER AND THE FALL FESTIVALS…. NO EVIDENCE CAN BE FOUND FOR THEM SO PRACTICING, YET IT MAY ALSO BE POSSIBLE THAT SOME INDIVIDUALS OR FAMILIES WERE KEEPING GOD’S FEAST; THEY JUST HAD TO LOOK FOR THE JEWS NEAR THEM THAT WERE SO DOING - Keith Hunt]
Four Sabbatarian churches were established around Philadelphia towards the end of the seventeenth century and early years of the eighteenth. Little historical record has survived concerning these churches and they seem to have died out by the early 1800s.
[TRULY IN NORTH AMERICA SABBATH KEEPERS WERE SARDIS IN NATURE - ALIVE BUT IN MANY WAYS SPIRITUALLY DEAD, NO HUNGERING AND THIRSTING FOR THE RIGHTEOUSNESS AND TRUTHS OF THE ETERNAL GOD - Keith Hunt]
An important local congregation of "the Church of God" was established at Piscataway, New Jersey, in 1705. Edmund Dunham was its first pastor.
The Articles of Faith of this church are given in "Seventh-day Baptist Memorial."
"I. We believe that unto us there is but one God, the Father, and one Lord Jesus Christ, who is the mediator between God and mankind, and that the Holy Ghost is the Spirit of God.
"II. We believe that all the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, given by inspiration, are the Word of God—and are the rule of faith and practice.
"III. We believe that the ten commandments, which were written on two tables of stone by the finger of God, continue to be the rule of righteousness unto all men.
"IV. We believe the six principles recorded in Heb. 6: 1, 2 to be the rule of faith and practice.
"V. We believe that the Lord's Supper ought to be administered and received in all Christian churches.
"VI. We believe that all Christian churches ought to have church officers in them, as elders, and deacons.
"VII. We believe that all persons thus believing ought to be baptized in water by dipping or plunging, after confession is made by them of their faith in the above said things.
"VIII. We believe that a company of sincere persons, being formed in the faith and practices of the above said things, may truly be said to be the Church of Christ.
"IX. We give up ourselves unto the Lord and one another, to be guided and governed by one another, according to the Word of God.”19
Extensive scriptural evidence was given to support these Articles of Faith.
Only "a few names" in the Sardis era of the church were truly converted and dedicated Christians (Rev. 3:4).
During the eighteenth century numerous Sabbath-keeping congregations were being formed in various parts of America, but as time went on an increasingly small proportion of the people in those congregations were really drawing close to God through prayer and Bible study. Many joined local churches after having accepted the doctrinal "argument" of the Sabbath. The fruits indicate that only a small number had deeply repented of their former ways. Some even continued to take part in wars and politics.
As a result of being in this weakened spiritual state several members were influenced by false teachers who came into the church with a view to obtaining a following for their own style of belief.
One such "evangelist" was William Davis. Born in Wales in 1663, Davis studied at Oxford in order to become a minister in the Church of England. He changed his mind about this and became a Quaker instead. After migrating to Pennsylvania, he found himself in disagreement with other Quakers which resulted in him joining the Baptists.
Because Davis's view of Christ differed from that held by the Baptists—he did not believe that Christ was divine—he was excommunicated from that church; but some time later was introduced to the Sabbath by Abel Noble, who, according to some sources, was also a former Quaker.
Mr. Davis applied for membership of the Newport Church in 1706 but was turned down on doctrinal grounds. Four years later he tried again, and even though some still objected, he was finally accepted. In 1713 he was given authority by this congregation to preach and baptize. For the rest of his life Davis was continually "in" and "out" of fellowship due to his belief in the Trinity, immortal soul, and the idea of going to heaven after death. His views were accepted by an increasing number of people and eventually became a part of Seventh-Day Baptist doctrine.
In one of his letters William Davis strongly defends his doctrinal views against those who rightly rejected them as being unscriptural.
"Now all this enmity against me among Seventh-day men arose against me originally from a noted seventh-day man and soul sleeper [one who rejected the immortal soul belief] in this country, who above twenty years ago opposed me about my principles of immortality of human souls, and afterward proceeded to differ with me about my faith in Christ and the Trinity, who having poisoned several other seventh-day men with the mortal and atheistical notion, and set them against me, he secretly conveyed this drench [accusation] against me over to Westerly to the persons beforenamed [various elders in the Rhode Island Church of God], who, complying with him in their judgments in the Socinian and Anti-Trinitarian error, drank it greedily down before I came among them . . ."20
This man had many descendants in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia who perpetuated his views long after his death.
In the early 1700s several debates were held on the question of the Sabbath. Episcopalians, led by Evan Evans and George Keith were able, by their arguments, to cause some Sabbatarians in Upper Providence to give up the Sabbath.
Public debates, conducted by leading ministers on both sides, were held in 1702 at Philadelphia. At Pennepek the Sabbatarians lost their place of worship when its owner returned to the Church of England.
The lifestyle of the members of the Sabbatarian "Philadelphia Movement" churches has been compared to that of the Quakers. They spoke directly and simply, dressed plainly and refused to engage in war or to take oaths.
A London minister, Elhanan Winchester, described them in 1788:
"Such Christians I have never seen as they are, who take the Scriptures as their only guide, in matters both of faith and practise . . . they are so afraid of doing anything contrary to the commands of Christ, that no temptations would prevail upon them even to sue any person at law. They are industrious, sober, temperate, kind, charitable people. They read much, they sing and pray much . . . they walk in the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless; both in public and private, they bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord . . . and whatsoever they believe their Saviour commands, they practise without enquiring what others do."21
"Another church began through Piscataway as the mother church, at Oyster Pond, Long Island, with Elder Elisha Gillette. He joined the Piscataway church in 1769, but continued to live on Long Island. Upon request of the Piscataway church during its yearly meeting of 1786, Gillette was ordained by Elder William Bliss of Newport, Elder John Burdick of Hopkinton, and Elder Nathen Rogers (who in 1787 became pastor of Piscataway). Gillette soon organised a Sabbath church in Long Island, which in 1791 was recognized as a sister church of Piscataway. The church was short-lived, for it made the fatal mistake of admitting into membership Sunday keepers, and soon dissolved."22
Another important reason for the spiritual decline of the eighteenth century Sabbatarian churches was involvement in politics. Richard Ward, a member of the Newport Church, even held office as governor of Rhode Island from 1741 to 1742.
"One of the outstanding leaders of the Colonial and Pre-Revolutionary War periods in American History was Samuel Ward, a founder of Rhode Island College (Brown University), Colonial Governor of Rhode Island and a Seventh Day Baptist. He was a participant in the deliberations of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia and would have been a signer of the Declaration of Independence had he not been stricken by small pox from which he died before that document was in final form. He was a descendant of Roger Williams. His home was located at the corner of the Shore Road and the road to Weekapaug in Westerly not far from the Atlantic Ocean, the present location of the home of Clifford A. Langworthy. Here came Benjamin Franklin and other leaders for conferences and planning discussions as to policies and procedures to be followed by the Colonies in their struggle for independence. Samuel Ward's wife was Anna Ray from Block Island and Benjamin Franklin struck up a friendship and corresponded regularly with a sister of Mrs. Ward who came over to the mainland at times when Franklin was in the area. It is recorded that he accompanied her to Weekapaug Breachway from where she took off for Block Island in a small boat bidding her goodbye as she began her dangerous trip over the rough waters of Block Island Sound. A bronze tablet marks the spot where the Ward home was located, erected and dedicated by the Children of the American Revolution in 1904. Governor Ward's granddaughter, Julia Ward Howe, author of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, was present and participated in the dedication ceremonies. Tea was served by the ladies of the Pawcatuck Seventh Day Baptist Church and other members of Phebe Greene Ward Chapter of the D.A.R. to the assembled guests.”23
"Among the prominent Seventh Day Baptists of the Eighteenth Century residing in Westerly was Dr. Joshua Babcock born there in 1707, graduated from Yale College and who studied 'physic and surgery' in Boston, later completing his education in England. He then settled in his native town where he built up a very large practice. Later he established a retail store which carried as wide a variety of merchandise and handled as large a volume of business as any between New York and Boston.... The Babcock house is located on Franklin Street named in honour of Benjamin Franklin and is greatly admired for its rugged strength and beauty. Its interior features, Dutch tiles around its fireplace, many elaborate cupboards and ceilings, a carved elegant staircase, secret closets and other architectural features provide us today with an authentic example of a fine Colonial home."24
Dr. Babcock died in 1783 and his memory is kept alive in the Babcock Junior High School of Westerly.
Although American Sabbatarians enjoyed a far greater measure of religious freedom than had their European counterparts of earlier generations, subtle pressures were exerted at times to induce them to conform to the beliefs of their Protestant neighbours. The measures taken to combat such pressures were often controversial and, at times, even comical.
"Fourteen of the early New London Sabbath-keepers petitioned the church in Hopkinton June 28, 1784 asking 'that they be incorporated a church in covenant relations with the mother church.' The request was granted and they became a separate church November 11, 1784. Early meetings were held in private homes and eventually the church had three different places of worship. We are disturbed today by the numerous mass demonstrations against this or that unpopular cause and are inclined to think of them as being unique and a present-day phenomenon. However, history records the fact that early Seventh Day Baptists in the New London area were so determined to have freedom to worship on the Sabbath and not be compelled to conform to Congregational pressures that some of the womenfolk took their knitting with them to a church service on Sunday while the men noisily pushed loaded wheelbarrows up and down the church steps."25
Interesting and significant records have been preserved which reveal that for several generations the early American Sabbath-keeping congregations did keep, within the limitations of their understanding, the Feast of Tabernacles. This term does not seem to have been in general use, however, and the festival was normally termed the "Yearly Meeting," or the "General Meeting," or the "Sabbatarian Great Meeting."
[THEY REALLY DID NOT UNDERSTAND THE KEEPING OF GOD’S FEASTS PER SE. IT MAY BE POSSIBLE SOME DID, BUT THE MAJORITY DID NOT, MUCH LIKE IT IS TODAY IN NORTH AMERICA IN SABBATH OBSERVING GROUPS - Keith Hunt]
"The journeys to attend them were often performed by ox teams, a distance of one hundred miles . . . great multitudes thronged to them for the spiritual profit to be gained, and multitudes more attended for curiosity or pleasure. No event, during the year, caused more excitement. The old members of the church, who attended them in their earlier times, love to live over again and again those pleasant and profitable meetings. Their social intercourse was of a holy and sanctified character, the influence of which still lingers in the hearts of those who enjoyed them. The meeting was regarded somewhat in the light of the yearly feasts of the Jews when all the tribes went up to Jerusalem to worship. It was a time when the members of the Church, generally, were expected to come together for a spiritual re-union…. The Lord's Supper was commonly observed at these General Meetings.... At a Church meeting of the 15th of September, 1722, was celebrated the ordinance of Bread and Wine."26
[TRULY THERE WAS LITTLE UNDERSTANDING OF THE FEASTS OF THE LORD - Keith Hunt]
Records of these early festivals indicate that, in common with the Biblical observance of such feasts, the moderate use of alcohol was permitted to those attending. Crowds of local people would sometimes gather around the places where alcohol was on sale and create trouble for those attending the festival. At times, problems of this nature would become so serious that state laws in Rhode Island and New Jersey were introduced which prohibited the sale of intoxicating drinks within a mile of the place of the meeting.
The observance of the Lord's Supper or Communion during the autumn or fall festival described by James Bailey, was clearly a departure from "the faith once delivered to the saints."
"The 1926 Seventh Day Baptist Manual notes that the 'Mill Yard Church, of London, the original Seventh Day Baptist Chruch, celebrates it once a year, at the time of the Passover, from the Jewish Church.' But besides the South Fork of the Hughes River Church in West Virginia, no record has been found of any other Seventh Day Baptist church observing communion on the time of the Passover. A.H. Lewis, Seventh Day Baptist counterpart of the Seventh Day Adventist, and Sabbath historian, John N. Andrews, said that the crucifixion was on Wednesday, and the resurrection on Saturday. Further, he admitted, 'The earliest Christians, i.e. those of the New Testament period, continued to observe the Passover; and since Christ died at that time, they associated his death with that festival. In this way the Passover became the festival of Christ's death.' The Scriptural time, Lewis knew, was the 14th of Nisan, without reference to Sunday or any day of the week. If the Mill Yard church observed communion at the time of the Passover throughout its history, it appears that the American churches deviated from English practices from the start. The very purpose of holding yearly meetings (the first recorded one was May 14,1684, Old Style) was to bring scattered members together 'at a communion season.' From its earliest records, communion at Newport has been reported to have been held in April, May, September, and other times of the year. On December 1, 1754, Newport communion time was set on the last Sabbath of every month. It was still observed on the last Saturday of the month in 1771. On July 12, 1746, the Shrewsbury church voted communion once in two months in conformity with the practice of the Westerly church. On March 3, 1775, the church voted communion to be held quarterly, on the last Sabbath in November, February, May and August. In 1811, the Piscataway church was also observing communion quarterly, with the Friday before communion Sabbath, a day of fasting and prayer. Formerly, fermented wine and unleavened bread both, only, were used. But contents of the 'cup' changed to grape juice; and today, [among Seventh Day Baptists] even regular, leavened bread, is often used. According to the 1833 'Confession of Faith' it is the duty of members to take the Lord's Supper as often as the church shall deem it expedient and the circumstances admit. If the Mill Yard 'mother church' of London, England, always observed communion once a year on the date of the Jewish Passover, why didn't American Sabbatarians do the same? The exact reason is unclear. But the fact that the Americans had forgotten how they had received their doctrines and beliefs [Revelation 3:3] cannot be denied."27
The practice of foot-washing as a part of the celebration of the Lord's Supper seems to have been carried out by several Sabbatarian congregations during the eighteenth century.
A letter written by the Shrewsbury Church of Christ during this period gives some interesting instructions on the subject:
"And now, dear Brethren, we shall use the freedom to acquaint you with one thing, and do heartily desire to recommend it to your serious and Christian consideration, and that is about the duty of washing one another's feet. This is a duty and work which some of us have been long thoughtful and in part persuaded of. . . and have concluded to put it in practice some time since, in the following manner; viz, at the … Lord's Supper ... the Elder, in imitation of the Lord, takes a towel and girds himself, then he pours water in a basin and begins to wash the disciples' (viz., the brethren's) feet, and from him they take it, and the brethren to the brethren, and the sisters to the sisters, they wash one another's feet through the present assembly. The practice of feet-washing was continued by this church after its removal to Virginia but was probably abandoned at some time during the first half of the nineteenth century."28
In 1775 Jacob Davis was ordained a minister of the Shrewsbury Church. During the ordination ceremony he was asked the question, "Have you entire freedom to administer the ordinances of God to them as to a Church of God; to pray with them and for them and endeavour to build them up in the faith?" The new minister was given a solemn charge. "Brother Davis, I charge thee before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, that thou take charge of the church of Christ dwelling at Shrewsbury."29
At Piscataway major internal problems were aroused due to members' attitudes towards the Revolutionary War. They "differed among themselves in relation to the justness of the war." The church broke up for several years and some members joined the Patriot army; others fled to the north and a number suffered the destruction of their farms during the war.
The Shrewsbury Church was also split by the war. Jacob Davis became a chaplain in the Continental Army and several members joined their pastor in taking a part in the conflict.
At least one member, however, took an entirely different position. Simeon Maxson, was temporarily disfellowshipped in 1776 for violently disagreeing with the others and calling them "children of the devil" for supporting carnal warfare.30
"Impoverished and decimated by the Revolutionary War, the Shrewsbury church sold the church building and on September 6, 1789 as a body moved to Woodbridgetown, Pennsylvania, and soon thereafter to New Salem, Virginia, on land donated by William Fitz Randolph. It is probable that the Shrewsbury emigrants were joined by recruits from Piscataway, New Jersey. It is reported that some Sabbatarians had removed from Shrewsbury to southwestern Pennsylvania and Western Virginia as early as 1774. After the war, small colonies went even further west, into Ohio, Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska. Near the close of the war, other members of the Rhode Island churches were migrating to Berlin, New York. By 1797 there was a church established at Brookfield, New York. Sabbath keepers were soon to spread into western New York, and elsewhere. From the Newport and Piscataway movements sprang churches of Sabbath keepers in North, Central, and Western New York, northern Pennsylvania, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kansas and western Nebraska."31
In 1794 a Sunday "blue law" was passed in Pennsylvania which caused great hardship to the Sabbatarians. Richard Bond, of the Nottingham church, refused to serve on a jury during the Sabbath.
"In America the number of churches gradually increased as the gospel was spread from state to state. But so nearly dead were these congregations that in 1802 many began to organize themselves together into a General Conference ... At this serious juncture, most of the local churches joined themselves together to form the Seventh-day Baptist General Conference .... Soon they began teaching the pagan Trinity doctrine and the immortality of human souls! Several faithful congregations did not become members of the Conference because they would not submit to the new Protestant doctrines being introduced . . . For another half century the congregations maintained the little truth they possessed, although most of them did not go all the way in obedience to God. John aptly described this period: 'Be watchful, and establish the things remaining, which are about to die, for I have not found they works perfect before my God' [Rev. 3:2].”32
A circular letter was sent out by the 1802 General Conference:
"Beloved brethren, we having received the kind letters from various churches in our fellowship, are bound by the love of God and the law of gratitude, to give thanks to God for the common salvation he has provided for us all, and for civil and religious liberty, and for the day and means of grace and hopes of glory through our Lord Jesus Christ. To effect so good an end and to keep order in the house or church of God, let every member have a home, or be under the watch and care of faithful brethren, and not scattered in the wide world where no church can see them walk or discipline them. Let them be careful to keep God's holy Sabbath, and join in social worship, statedly; likewise in private duties. It is expected that all the churches in our Communion will send letters or messengers, or both, to our next Yearly Meeting . . . with a statement of their liberality toward defraying the charges of the missionaries. As purity of heart and morality of life constitute our chief happiness, and we all are but stewards of the manifold grace of God, let us give unto all their due. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”33
One source gives the number of members of the Seventh-Day Baptist church, at the time of this Conference, as 1130, with nine ordained ministers.
The minutes of the Seventh-Day Baptist General Conference for 1846 reveal that by 1807, numbers had risen to 1,648, and by 1846 they had increased to 6,092.
In 1818 the name "Seventh-Day Baptist" was officially adopted by the majority of Sabbatarian congregations.
By about 1917 this church had 73 church congregations and 6,000 members.34
At the time of writing, membership of this church, the figures provided by Seventh-Day Baptist headquarters in Plainfield, New Jersey, are "5,150 members in the United States, and a worldwide total of 52,700."
Conference records during the nineteenth century reveal a gradual change in attitude and doctrine. By 1803 decisions affecting Seventh-Day Baptists were reached by the process of voting. Each church had from one to four votes depending on its size. The Conference could only advise local churches; it assumed no powers over the churches beyond this. All contributions to the Conference were to be voluntary.
In 1804 a Circular Letter indicated that internal dissention was prevalent: ". . . do nothing to wound the weak and feeble lambs of Christ, who cannot endure much; and be not offended with those who cannot see as far and walk as fast as you . . . establish nothing new, although it might be for the better, until the whole be generally agreed thereon, that peace and harmony may be established among ourselves ..."
A "have love" philosophy was advocated towards those of differing beliefs, including the preachers and people of other denominations at the 1820 Conference. Two years later members were advised "not to sacrifice the Sabbath in marriage." In 1833 members voted unanimously to abstain from alcohol except for medicinal purposes.
A condition of "coldness and apathy" was said to have prevailed in 1836. By 1864 Seventh Day Baptists were "greatly absorbed in national affairs," meaning the Civil War. A policy of co-operation with Seventh Day Adventists was agreed in 1870."
Not all American Sabbath-keepers were in agreement with the "General Conference."
One such church was established on the South Fork of the Hughes River in West Virginia. The congregation was raised up following revival meetings held by an evangelist, Alexander Campbell, in 1833. A public debate on the Sabbath was also conducted with a local Methodist minister which resulted in several of the listeners accepting the Sabbath. Church services began in 1834. The people called themselves "the Seventh Day Baptist church" and also the "Church of Christ."
Some of the practices of this group were described as "Mosaic." Biblical laws of "clean" and "unclean" meats were observed. The communion service was held "once in twelve months on the fourteenth day of the first Jewish month." The foot-washing ceremony was also observed by this group. They believed that a Christian should not hold public office, that tithing is commanded, and that a Christian should not marry a non Christian. This church was governed from the top down with the ministers firmly in control. Rules were imposed relating to courtship, dating and child rearing. A standard of dress was enforced, the violation of which even resulted in some being excommunicated. Randolph records that over 130 people belonged to the South Fork congregation during its half century of existence.
[SOUNDS LIKE IT BECAME A CULT, LIKE SOME OTHERS OF THE 20TH CENTURY, THAT STARTED OFF ON THE STRAIGHT AND NARROW PATH, BUT BECAME VAIN IN THEIR SELF-RIGHTEOUS POMPUS RULERSHIP OF GOD’S PEOPLE - Keith Hunt]
Because of its rigid and literal application of the Bible, this group experienced severe persecution from "Christian" sources which viewed their beliefs as "half crazy ideas."
A group of five disaffected members established their own opposition church in order to challenge the "heretics" of South Fork; for several years a fierce struggle continued between the two factions. The dissidents eventually gained control of the "mother church." In 1885 they ordained a woman as a minister.36
The West Virginia churches were closely associated with Sabbath-keepers in Ohio. A church was raised up in 1824 at Pike, Clarke County, Ohio. A division took place over the question of alcohol and a "Temperance Reform" movement began which led to the separation of "wet" and "dry" churches in the area.
The nineteenth century saw a growing acceptance of Catholic and Protestant doctrines by Seventh-Day Baptists. Their 1833 General Conference produced an "Expose of Sentiments" which included a statement on the Trinity.
"We believe that there is a union existing between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and that they are equally divine and equally entitled to our adoration. Members were received only upon the vote of a Sabbatarian Baptist church at a business meeting. In the Westerly church (Hopkinton), a written confession of faith was required of candidates for membership, so that the initiate knew the step he was taking. After baptism, laying on of hands was generally performed. The Newport church practiced this from the start, in accord with the English Sabbatarian churches, and the 1833 Expose of Faith upholds it. Much internal dissension ocurred within the churches. Personal and business differences among members were taken before a church council composed of the elders, deacons and several leading members. Recalcitrant members were sometimes excommunicated, with a formal 'Awful Sentence of Excommunication.' A frequent reason was for continual breach of Sabbath or other offense."37
The general trend amongst Sabbath-keeping churches of the nineteenth century seems to have been that they desired to be more and more like the churches around them. They overlooked the fact that they were to be "a peculiar people" (1 Pet. 2:9) set apart by God for a special purpose. This trend is evident in the observation of religious festivals.
"No fact is more fully established than that Sunday and its associate festivals came into Christianity through pagan influence. This included Easter, Christmas, Whitsunday, and others. This was the general Seventh-Day Baptist view until the late 1800's, when Christmas influence began to show itself in the holding of 'Founder's Day' on December 23, in order to hold the interest of the children during the holiday season. It was really only a pretense; a Christmas observation two days early. Now Christmas and Easter are commonly observed among Seventh-Day Baptists."38
This period is marked by declining membership and spiritual power. True conversion was sadly lacking in the majority of Sabbatarians.
"Conference reports are rife with admissions of the cold and lethargic state of the Sabbatarian churches at the turn of the nineteenth century. In 1836, there was said to be 'general coldness and apathy' in the whole church. In 1840, despite the 'revivals' in the church, there remained widespread 'apathy and backsliding.' By 1846, little interest was shown in denominational matters. Periodical after periodical published by Seventh Day Baptists folded due to lack of support. In fact, the history of nineteenth century Seventh Day Baptists is the record of one paper's demise after another. A 'tent campaign' began in 1878, with several evangelist preachers in the effort. But the program was soon abandoned, because church members would not support it. A feeble revival of the program was attempted in 1895, with few visible results."39
Sabbatarian history in the mid-nineteenth century is dominated by the Adventist movement.
During this time the Advent movement among Sunday-observing churches was begun by William Miller. "In 1843 several followers of Miller in Washington, New Hampshire, became acquainted with the truth of the Sabbath. It was not until after the miserable disappointment of 1844, however, that the general body of adventists had the Sabbath question called to their attention. A small number accepted the Sabbath and soon united with the few remaining Church of God brethren who refused to be affiliated with the Seventh-Day Baptist Conference.
[YES THERE WERE OTHER SABBATH KEEPING PEOPLE WHO WERE NOT PART OF THE SEVENTH DAY BAPTISTS - Keith Hunt]
"They called themselves the 'Church of God' and began publishing 'The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald.' Their first songbook was dedicated to 'The Church of God scattered abroad.'40. The 'transition period' of Church of God history, from the 1840's to early 1860's, is difficult to record. History seems to focus almost entirely on those Sabbath keepers who adhered to the 'visions' of Mrs. White, or on those who had lost the proper church name, or history focuses on Adventists who held to the name, 'Church of God,' but did not observe the Sabbath. Independent Sabbath keepers existed throughout the period of 1840-1860 in New York, West Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, and elsewhere. Of these, remnants of Sabbatarian Baptists in West Virginia in the late 1850's combined Sabbath keeping, Passover observance, and keeping of Biblical food laws with other beliefs strikingly similar to the modern Church of God (Seventh Day)."41
"With each passing year, new and different doctrines were being introduced by Ellen G. White to explain away the adventist failure of October 22,1844, the predicted date for the second coming of Christ. The original Church of God brethren generally did not go along with the 'inspired testimony' of Ellen G. White. Finally, a meeting was held by some of the members in Battle Creek, Michigan, September 28 through October 1, I860."42
Seventeen delegates attended the Conference, the purpose of which was to discuss "loyal organization." Most of the speakers held the view that organization when applied to a church was of the devil, that "organization is Babylon." There seemed to be no clear understanding as to how the true church should be organized and governed. The Conference did agree, however, that it should legally organize a publishing association. It also recommended that local Sabbath churches be organized.
Another subject which was considered by the delegates was that of a church name. Some pressed for "Church of God" and others "Seventh Day Adventist," objecting to the former name because it failed to emphasize the Sabbath and the belief in the Second Coming of Christ.
The name "Seventh Day Adventist" was finally chosen. Only one man, from Gilboa, Ohio, voted against this decision, holding out for "Church of God." Many delegates did not consider that a church name had any major significance whatsoever.
In 1863 the first Seventh Day Adventist General Conference was held at Battle Creek. The membership of this church in that year totalled 3,500.
Not all Sabbath keepers agreed to the new name. Those of Ohio determined to retain the name "Church of God."
CHURCH OF GOD SEVENTH DAY BEGINS TO EMERGE
"For another seventy years conditions remained almost unchanged. The remaining brethren retained the name 'Church of God,' with headquarters finally at Stanberry, Missouri. Among local congregations only a few individuals repented and strengthened the truth that was ready to perish in their midst. But most of the ministers resorted to organising pitifully weak evangelistic work on the pattern of state conferences rather than yielding themselves to God's government and direction in the carrying of the gospel with power. In fact, instead of the true gospel, most ministers taught a 'third angel's message,' which they had accepted from the adventist people. They also published a small paper called the Bible Advocate."43
During this period an evangelistic work took place at Marion, Iowa. Early in 1860 a man named M.E. Cornell arrived in the town and began to preach on the Second Coming of Christ, Sabbath observance and the unconscious state of
the dead. His preaching created something of a stir and the ministers of various local churches began to oppose him.
One such minister challenged Cornell to a debate on the Sabbath and state of the dead questions. The debate caused even more local interest as the ministers were unable to counter Cornell's arguments. As a result of this, a new congregation was established at Marion, consisting of about fifty people drawn from several churches in the area.
The new group agreed together to keep the commandments of God and faith of Jesus and to use the Bible alone as their rule of faith and practice. A crisis quickly developed for the new church when a move was made to change the name from "Church of Jesus Christ" to "Seventh Day Adventist." The members were also required to accept the visions of Ellen G. White as having equal authority with the Bible.
"Fully half of the members refused to enter the new organization with its new conditions, but remained firm to the original organization, and to those that remained were added quite a few persons who had been holding back, now came forward and united with them, which made them much stronger than the party that reorganized. Other churches in Iowa were organized, who shortly were also disrupted, and then more or less associated themselves with the Church of Christ in Marion, later known as the Church of God. As soon as it was discovered that some of the members of these neighboring churches clung to their original faith, a circular letter was written calling for a conference of the scattered believers which was responded to by meeting of such a conference at Marion, Nov. 5, 1862, when the above circular letter was ordered printed for the call of a conference of a more general nature. The Church at Marion was without a pastor at that time, so one of their members, V. M. Gray, who took charge of the meetings, was voted in as elder of the church."44
Another powerful preacher that rose to prominence around the middle of the nineteenth century was a former Seventh Day Adventist—Elder Cranmer. He left that church because he would not accept Mrs. White's visions and the "Shut Door" policy of the Adventists.
"Henceforth Elder Cranmer preached as the Spirit directed, and got quite a following, including several ministers." Persecution had to be endured. "While meetings were in progress at Hartford or near there . . . they were served with a shower of eggs of no recent date, but the Elder came out of it unharmed, while others were not so fortunate. His wife had on a very nice dress which was nearly spoiled. The perfume of the eggs broke up the meeting that night. . . One more effort was made by the enemy; this time a large bucket of water was placed over the speaker's stand with a string attached. When Elder Cranmer was in the midst of his sermon the string was pulled and down came the water, but the trick did not work as the promoters had expected, for the Elder was unharmed, but a little child lying asleep nearby was nearly drowned.
Organization was now discussed and was finally effected in the year 1860. Other ministers united until there was a total of twelve. Gilbert Cranmer was the founder of the Church of God in Michigan, and was the first president of the Conference. One writer stated: "To have known Elder Gilbert Cranmer at any time during his life, and especially in his earlier Christian ministry, is to have known one of the most powerful and eloquent ministers of his day."45
On August 10, 1863, a new magazine was published with the title The Hope of Israel. It was printed at Hartford, Van Buren Co., Michigan, with a subscription price of seventy five cents a year. The Resident Editor was Enos Easton; Gilbert Cranmer and John Reed were Corresponding Editors.
The editorial policy was based on ten principles:
(1) That the Bible alone contains the whole moral law and that its precepts are sufficient to govern God's people in every age without the addition of humanly devised creeds.
(2) That the penalty of sin is death, and that the dead are really dead and "know not anything."
(3) That sin is "the transgression of the law," which in effect means breaking the ten commandments.
(4) Man, having sinned, is under the sentence of death. His only hope of eternal life is by means of a resurrection from the dead, the penalty for sin having been paid by the sacrifice of Christ.
(5) This hope in eternal life was a major motivation in Israel and the primitive church.
(6) The setting up of the kingdom of God on earth and return of Jesus Christ is imminent.
[AND SO HAVE ALL THE FUNDAMENTAL CHURCHES TAUGHT FOR 150 YEARS AT LEAST— NOT KNOWING THE PROPHETIC SIGNS WOULD ACCOUNT FOR SUCH TALK, SO THAT KIND OF TALK STILL GOES ON TO THIS DAY - Keith Hunt]
(7) The reward of the righteous and punishment of the wicked will take place on the earth.
(8) The earth will provide the final abode of the faithful saints.
(9) That paradise will be restored to the earth and that God will dwell in the New Jerusalem.
10) Man will finally have access to the tree of life and will experience life without pain, death and sorrow.
The effect of this new magazine was to draw together a host of scattered believers and to provide a vehicle through which views on many different religious topics could be shared with others.
One of the first issues carried an article by Elder Cranmer in which he related his experiences in the ministry. His labours had resulted in the ordination of eight ministers and the conversion of several hundred members in the state of Michigan.
He wrote of divine healings, numbering about one hundred which included the restoration of sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf.
“The Hope of Israel” attracted interest, it seems, from many parts of the United States, and even beyond. A letter was included in the second issue from a Mr. Tanton Ham of Bristol, England, in which he described the pagan origins of the immortal soul doctrine.
Bible prophecy and its relationship to world news was a common theme and the progress of the Civil War received good coverage in the early issues.
[MAYBE BUT THE PROPHECIES WERE NEVER REALLY UNDERSTOOD AS THEY ARE TODAY - Keith Hunt]
In some areas the preaching activities of ministers was disrupted by the influence of Spiritualists but the magazine reported that the "devils were cast out."
The pages of the Hope were available for the expression of widely differing opinions on a variety of subjects. Various opinions were expressed; for example on the subject of whether or not fermented wine should be drunk by church members.
Booklets were advertised and readers could even send for a book containing "105 choice hymns" for 45 cents. Many contributors to the magazine were convinced that they were living in "the last days" and some even set the date for the end of the world and the return of Christ. One such "prophet" predicted that this event would occur in 1873, basing his prediction on the book of Daniel and added the ominous warning, "Reader, this just leaves ten years to the end of the world. ..."
[SHOWS HOW LITTLE UNDERSTANDING OF BIBLE PROPHECY THERE WAS IN THOSE YEARS - Keith Hunt]
This general belief that the end was near seems to have stimulated a measure of zeal and enthusiasm among members. The Hope carried several reports of evangelistic campaigns.
The Civil War created many problems for God's people. Most were firmly opposed to participation in warfare and several were sentenced to periods of imprisonment for then-refusal to join the army when drafted. One member, John L. Staunton, was disfellowshipped in 1865 for enlisting in the U.S. Army.
Articles during this period covered such subjects as "The Plan of Salvation," "The Mark of the Beast" and "When Does the Sabbath Begin?"
The Hope also carried news of conferences and meetings. At one meeting a Sister Carter of Otsego, who for a long time had been deprived of her power of speech, had a moving experience: "... her speech was perfectly restored again. Glory to God!"
From time to time readers were urged to increase their contributions in order that the size and quality of the magazine could be enhanced. It was suggested that members might give up the use of tobacco, described as "the poisonous weed" and donate the money saved to "our little paper."
In 1864 the magazine subscription was increased to $1.00 per year, that was for 26 issues. This period seems to have been marked by a measure of growth within the Church of God. Procedures were laid down for the ordination of ministers. Such men had to be full of faith and the Holy Spirit and also to meet the qualifications listed in I Timothy, chapter 3. They were set apart by prayer and the laying on of hands.
Although ministers were ordained partly that order and discipline should exist within congregations, each local church was an independent unit and not under the authority or jurisdiction of any higher church authority. Regular communications did exist between churches, however, in order that their common cause should be promoted.
The need for unity was stressed and so far as the church name was concerned the members used either "The Church of God" or "The Church of Christ." Division was to be avoided and all were to strive for "one faith" and "one baptism."
Several articles and letters appeared which discussed the precise time of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Although most writers took the "three days and three nights" to mean exactly that—72 hours—a measure of confusion existed over the actual time that these events took place.
The Hope of Israel was often plagued by financial problems. H.S. Dille, the office editor, was paid $4 per week, which even in 1865 was considered a low wage. At one point the church owed him between $60 and $70. Even the most dedicated of workers could hardly be expected to continue indefinitely under such conditions; his health began to decline and several issues of the Hope did not appear.
Members were constantly urged to do their part and support the magazine financially; some had even neglected to pay their own subscription.
The October, 1865 issue was the last one to be published at Waverly, Michigan.
No further issues were produced until May, 1866, and by this time the paper had been moved to Marion, Iowa. It now had a new editor, W.H. Brinkerhoff, and was published on a semi-monthly basis. The subscription price by this time had increased to $1.50 per year and each issue contained 16 pages.
One of the most energetic ministers of this period was Elder J.H. Nichols. He began preaching for the Church of God in 1861 and continued until his death in 1916. It has been said that he was the first person to take the Sabbath truth west of the Rocky Mountains when he preached on the site of Santa Rosa, California in 1862.
Articles and letters on a wide variety of subjects appeared in the Hope. One such article examined "that dreadful disease known as 'Trichinosis.' " The writer produced evidence to show that the only certain way to avoid contracting the disease was to avoid eating pork products.
"Clean" and "unclean" meats appeared to have been the theme of several articles.
The magazine contained reports from church conferences and of various evangelistic work conducted by the ministers. In June, 1866, H.S. Dille was disfellowshipped for joining the Mormons.
For several years a running battle was fought in the pages of the Hope and Review and Herald between the Church of God people and the Seventh Day Adventists. The two main points of issue were the validity or otherwise of Mrs. Ellen G. White's visions and the interpretation of the prophecies of the book of Revelation.
By about 1870 a decline in the zeal and enthusiasm of many of the members may be detected. One reason for this could well be the lack of real leadership in the church and the fact that the Hope, which was the only real contact that many members had with others of like faith, seemed to lack a clear, decisive and united policy on many vital points of doctrine.
An example of this is the controversy which surrounded the question of whether or not the "wicked dead" would be resurrected. Articles in favour of this and against appeared in the magazine, including the obvious answer that in order to have a "second death" there would have to be a resurrection from the first death.
As a wide variety of often conflicting opinions were given equal space in the magazine it seems probable that many readers became confused and began to lose interest.
The Hope seems to have ceased publication for a period of about two years (1869-71). When it resumed in June, 1871, it published "Mr. Miller's Apology and Defense" being William Miller's reasons why Christ had not returned in 1843-44 as he had predicted.
In 1872 the name of the magazine was changed from The Hope of Israel to The Advent and Sabbath Advocate and Hope of Israel. This rather cumbersome new title was favoured because the former title did not draw the attention of the reader to the key doctrines of the Church—the Second Coming of Christ and the seventh-day Sabbath. Publication of the paper was suspended between October, 1873 and March, 1874, due to differences of opinion between the editor and the managers of the Publishing Association.
It was about this time that A.F. Dugger appears on the scene.
As a first-day preacher, he had been asked by his denomination to write a book against the seventh-day Sabbath. The material uncovered by his research convinced him, however, that the seventh day and not the first was the true Christian Sabbath.
A letter to the Advocate in 1881 suggested that the practice of tithing be introduced. This seems to have been a new doctrine to the Church of God of this period.
The centre of activity for the church appears to have been in Missouri at this time. A series of "campmeetings" were held which drew crowds of from 1,200 to 1,500 people. These meetings were occasions for both preaching services and social gatherings. They seem to have been quite successful.
The Advocate ceased publication for some two years between 1882 and 1884; when it resumed publication, information was given relating to the establishment of a branch of the Church of God at Stanberry, Missouri.
In 1884 Elder A.F. Dugger, who was working from Fairfield, Nebraska, announced the creation of a system of Sabbath school work for young people.
Views were expressed in the Advocate which seems strange to a twentieth century reader. During the period 1885-86 several articles appeared which deplored "the evils of the skating rinks."
The General Conference of the Church of God for 1886 was held at Marion, Iowa. Some interesting statistics were produced at the time which shows how small and lacking in any real impact on the world the Church of God really was during these …. years of the "Sardis" era.
Reports revealed a membership of 75 in four churches in Kansas, 440 in thirteen churches in Missouri and 365 in the eight churches of Michigan. Total membership of the Church of God in 1887 stood at about 1,000. There were 122 conversions in that year and 30 ministers.
About 1890 the name of the magazine was changed yet again. This time to Sabbath Advocate and Herald of the Advent. By 1892 a branch of the Church of God had been established in South Dakota. The following year a songbook of hymns and music was produced that was said to be slanted towards truth so that members could freely sing them; it was advertised in the Sabbath Advocate.
So "liberal" was the editorial policy of the magazine that in 1894 several articles were submitted which were against the Sabbath. They were rejected by the editor.
The closing years of the nineteenth century saw a work being done by the church in Oregon, Pennsylvania, North Dakota and several other areas. In 1900 a sanitarium was opened at White Cloud, Michigan. The name of the magazine was changed once again in that same year—this time to The Bible Advocate and Herald of the Coming Kingdom.
At the General Conference of 1902 it was suggested that an academy or college for the Church of God should be established.
In 1905 A.F. Dugger became the editor and manager of the Bible Advocate.
The Conference of that year passed a resolution to reaffirm belief in the doctrine that tithes and offerings were the means by which the Work should be supported.
By 1907 Elder Dugger's health was failing and he retired as editor of the Bible Advocate. The vacancy was reluctantly filled by Brother Brinkerhoff. On December 20 of that year a fire destroyed a large part of the Advocate building, although most of the printing type was rescued. Some of the machinery and many of the tracts were destroyed by fire and water. The $700 insurance on the building and printing materials covered only a part of the loss, but contributions from members from many parts of the country made up the balance of the loss.
In 1910 Elder A.F. Dugger died, but by this date we find his son Andrew N. Dugger active in the ministry.
The November, 1912 issue of the Bible Advocate carried news of a series of meetings held by Andrew Dugger in schoolhouses at Empire Prairie, some eight miles from Stanberry. The meetings were moderately successful and it was said that several of those attending had minds receptive for the truth.
Mr. Dugger became quite well known in later years as one of the authors (along with CO. Dodd) of A History of the True Religion. He died two or three years ago (from 1979) after one of the longest ministries in Church of God history.
A good deal of space in the magazine was devoted to prophecy and its relationship to world news. The "Eastern Question" concerning the Balkan war and the decline of the Turkish Empire was a favourite theme during 1913. These events were often linked with the Biblical "Times of the Gentiles."
Several articles appeared during 1914-18 on the prophetic significance of World War I. Many writers considered these events as a fulfillment of some of the prophecies of Daniel. During this period A.N. Dugger became editor of the Bible Advocate.
A number of public debates were held in 1916 between Church of God ministers and those of other persuasions. Several conversions were reported as a result of these activities. In April of the following year when the United States entered World War I, A.N. Dugger, together with a Congressman from Missouri, had a personal meeting with President Woodrow Wilson, which resulted in the young men of the Church being exempted from combatant service.
The capture of Jerusalem by the British General Allenby towards the end of 1917 led to a series of articles in the Bible Advocate entitled "Condensed History of Jerusalem and the Jews."
Church records for 1919 reveal that over 60 new members were added in the states of Oklahoma, Texas and Missouri. The subject of growth within the church seems to have been on the minds of some at this time as a proposal was submitted that the Church of God establish a college for the training of ministers.
By March, 1920, pledges and special offerings for this purpose had been received which totalled $59,083.25. This sum also included several wills. Not all within the church were in favour of the project. Some held the view that God did not need a college for His Work, that the inspiration of the Holy Spirit was sufficient and that colleges and schools were of the Devil.
A Bible Home Instructor was produced in 1920 and it was offered to book agents who reported good sales. During this period a tent campaign was conducted at Sabatha, Kansas and Maryville, Missouri. Forty-three new members were added to the church.
Numerous campaigns and debates were held in various parts of the United States during 1922 but results were hardly encouraging. By this time field ministers numbered about forty, and their goal was to bring one thousand new members into the church during 1922. This was probably an optimistic objective.
During that year a new church was established in Mexico City and interest in the Work was reported in China, India, New Zealand and Jerusalem.
Milton Grotz of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania visited Stanberry in 1923. He appears to have had quite a reputation for his healing ministry. People came to his services not only from the local area but also from many miles away. There were several reports of healing miracles. Grotz, accompanied by Elder Dugger, also conducted evangelistic campaigns at Bassett, Nebraska. It was said that people with all manner of diseases, including cripples, were healed. A local church of over eighty members was established shortly after the end of the campaigns.
By 1923 the number of ministers had increased to 126 and church membership estimated at 1,000 to 1,500. During the late 1920s the main thrust of the Work seems to have been concentrated in a very aggressive program to sell Bible Home Instructors. The salesmen or "Colporteurs" appear to have been pioneers in several new areas. Ministers followed along later and raised up churches after a sufficient level of interest had been aroused.
A very limited foreign work was also being conducted at this time. Some of the church literature was translated in the Swedish and German languages. Some, at this time, began to see the potential of radio as a means of reaching mass audiences, and efforts were made to raise money for a radio work.
The need for unity in preaching and writing was recognized and by 1929 ministers were being urged to speak and write the same thing. It soon became clear, however, that differences of opinion still existed on a variety of doctrinal subjects.
It was during this time that a very special ministry was about to begin in the state of Oregon which was to have a profound impact on the next era of the Church of God.
THE AUTHOR HAS ONE FINAL CHAPTER THAT I WILL NOT REPRODUCE; IT CONCERNS THE MINISTRY OF HERBERT W. ARMSTRONG. YES, HE DID A VERY LARGE WORK IN THE SENSE OF PROCLAIMING MANY TRUTHS OF THE WORD OF GOD, AND BECOMING VERY WELL KNOWN IN THE WESTERN WORLD. BUT VANITY, SELF-PROUDNESS, AND HUMAN EGO, BROUGHT HIM TO WHERE HE TURNED HIS “CHURCH” ORGANIZATION INTO A CULT! I HAV E PUT ENOUGH ON THIS WEBSITE ALREADY TO EXPOSE THE FALL OF HERBERT ARMSTRONG.
THERE WAS SOME GROWTH IN THE CHURCH OF GOD SEVENTH DAY; BUT IT WAS VERY SMALL IN COMPARISON TO THE GROWTH OF THE SEVENTH DAY ADVENTIST CHURCH. BUT THE CHURCH OF GOD HAS NEVER ACCEPTED THAT THE SDA CHURCH IS A PART OF THE BODY OF CHRIST. SOME INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS ARE. THE SDA CHURCH TODAY IS ABOUT 15 MILLION WORLDWIDE.
WITH THE START OF THE 20TH CENTURY WE MOVE INTO THE PHILADELPHIA AGE OF THE CHURCH OF GOD.
TWO IMPORTANT PEOPLE HAVE BEEN MISSED BY MOST CHURCH OF GOD HISTORIANS.
ONE WAS A MINISTER WITH THE SDA CHURCH AT THE START OF THE 20TH CENTURY. HE WROTE AN ARTICLE THAT WAS PUBLISHED BY THEIR MAGAZINE; IT CONCERNED THE KEEPING OF GOD’S HOLY FESTIVALS, OUTLINED IN LEVITICUS 23. HE SAID THEY SHOULD BE OBSERVED. MOST OF THE MINISTERS AND CHURCHES OF THE SDA BASICALLY LAUGHT AT THE ARTICLE AND TOOK NO NOTICE OF IT. BUT 3 OR 4 CHURCHES IN SOUTH AMERICA TOOK IT VERY SERIOUSLY—— THEY STARTED TO OBSERVE GOD’S FESTIVALS, AND EVENTUALLY LEFT THE SDA CHURCH.
AT ABOUT THE SAME TIME THERE WAS A BLACK MAN WORKING ON THE PASSENGER TRAIN LINES; HE HAD LOTS OF TIME TO READ THE BIBLE. IN SO DOING HE CAME TO SEE GOD’S FESTIVALS SHOULD BE OBSERVED, AS WELL AS THE WEEKLY 7TH DAY SABBATH. HE STARTED A WORK AMONG BLACK PEOPLE THAT GREW QUITE LARGE - OBSERVING THE WEEKLY SABBATH AND ANNUAL FEASTS OF GOD. I DISCOVERED THIS TRUTH IN A LITTLE PAMPHLET PUT OUT BY THE SDA CHURCH. IT WAS CALLED THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE SEVENTH DAY ADVENTIST CHURCH AND THE WORLDWIDE CHURCH OF GOD. THE LITTLE PAMPHLET CONTAINED THE STORY OF THIS BLACK MAN.
THESE TWO PEOPLE WERE LIVING AND PREACHING AT THE START OF THE 20TH CENTURY. LONG BEFORE HERBERT ARMSTRONG AND OTHER MINISTERS OF THE CHURCH OF GOD SEVENTH DAY, STARTED TO TEACH OBSERVANCE OF THE FEASTS OF GOD, IN THE 1930s.
THEN WE HAVE THE LITTLE KNOWN HISTORY OF SABBATH KEEPERS ON THE AFRICAN CONTINENT.
THIS CAME TO MY KNOWLEDGE ABOUT 2004 WITH A BOOK PUBLISHED BY A BLACK MINISTER OF THE SDA CHURCH.
HE HAD DISCOVERED THE FACT THAT THERE WERE ABOUT 20 MILLION, YES 20 MILLION, SABBATH KEEPERS ON THE AFRICAN CONTINENT, AND ONLY 2 MILLION WERE SEVENTH DAY ADVENTISTS!!!
WOW…. BLOW YOU AWAY FACT!
THERE HAS BEEN A WORK GOING ON OVER ON THE AFRICAN CONTINENT THESE PAST TWO THOUSAND YEARS THAT HAS BROUGHT A 20 MILLION POPULATION AS OF 2004, TO KEEP THE 7TH DAY SABBATH, AND MANY ALSO OBSERVING THE FEASTS OF GOD.
THEN THERE ARE MANY CONGREGATIONS IN INDIA ALSO 7TH DAY SABBATH KEEPERS, AND SOME OF THEM OBSERVE GOD’S FESTIVALS.
JESUS AS HEAD OF HIS CHURCH HAS BEEN VERY BUSY THESE LAST TWO THOUSAND YEARS! YES INDEED!
ANOTHER PART OF THIS WHOLE TRUTH THAT MANY DO NOT KNOW OR UNDERSTAND, IS THE TRUTH THAT A “CHURCH ERA” CAN OVERLAP A PREVIOUS CHURCH ERA, SOMETIMES BY HUNDREDS OF YEARS.
THE TRUTH IS AT THE COMING OF CHRIST THERE WILL BE THREE CHURCH ERAS EXISTING.
THERE WILL BE THE SARDIS, THE PHILADELPHIA, AND THE LAODICEA ERAS ALL ON THIS EARTH WHEN JESUS COMES AGAIN.
THERE WILL BE THOSE WHO ARE ALIVE BUT DEAD; NO GROWING IN GRACE AND KNOWLEDGE; THOSE WHO HAVE NOT DENIED HIS NAME, THEY ARE GROWING IN GRACE AND KNOWLEDGE [THE SMALL GROUP], AND THE LAODICEA ONES, WHO THINK THEY HAVE IT ALL JUST FINE, AND JUST NEED TO KEEP DOING WHAT THEY’VE BEEN DOING - ONES WHO CANNOT SEE THEY ARE BLIND AND NAKED, WHO THINK THEY HAVE IT ALL, NO MORE ADMITTING THEIR ERRORS AND SINS OF THE PAST, WHO THINK THERE IS NO MORE GROWING IN GRACE AND KNOWLEDGE TO DO.
YES, IT IS THE SMALL GROUP OF THE PHILADELPHIA MINDSET WHO ARE THE MOST BLESSED; WHO HAVE AN OPEN DOOR BEFORE THEM THAT GOD LEADS THEM THROUGH—— AND I SAY QUITE DOGMATICALLY THIS WEBSITE IS ONE PART OF THIS SMALL GROUP.
IT IS TIME FOR THOSE WHO CAN SEE TO SEE; IT IS TIME FOR THOSE WHO CAN HEAR TO HEAR; IT IS TIME FOR THOSE WHO CAN READ TO READ, AND UNDERSTAND!