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Heavenly Visions

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    THAT rural church in Washington, New Hampshire, had laid hold of the Sabbath truth in 1844 as a living, vital thing in their lives. It meant everything to them; but they were shut away from the main currents of the public life.HEVI 106.1

    Such men as T. M. Preble and J. B. Cook, who received the light from little Washington, in the mountains, had the gift for giving publicity to the newly found light. They began to publish it abroad, especially after the second disappointment in the autumn of 1844. But while they had caught the facts of the teaching, they had not caught the real advent spirit of it.HEVI 106.2

    In “History of the Sabbath,” written by J. N. Andrews a few years after these days, we are told:HEVI 106.3

    “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” page 502.HEVI 106.4

    It became too much an academic argument with these men, and our early believers felt that they held to the Sabbath only halfheartedly. No wonder they soon gave it up and few of their converts continued in obedience. Preble, in a debate with M. E. Cornell, one of our early evangelists, in 1865, declared his regret that he ever became “bewildered into the keeping of the Sabbath.” He wished that what he had written about it had never had existence.HEVI 106.5

    But, as the apostle Paul said, “we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.” Preble’s first article on the Sabbath (in an Adventist paper called, the Hope of Israel, Feb.28, 1845) passed the torch of Sabbath reform to hands that God had evidently been preparing to carry the light before men.HEVI 106.6

    Captain Joseph Bates, of Fairhaven, Massachusetts, a man who had stood in the forefront of the 1844 times with William Miller, read Preble’s first article. Bates was one of those whose faith in God’s leadership never wavered in the disappointment over the fact that they had been mistaken in believing that the second advent would take place in the autumn of 1844. He held fast to the advent hope and was praying for light and waiting on God. Here was light, he felt, as he read the argument for the Sabbath. He studied the whole question in his Bible, and reviewed the history cited by Preble. He was convinced and convicted. He must obey God. That was the rule of his life. There was never anything halfhearted and merely theoretical about the old ship captain’s relation to Bible truth. To see the beacon light was to follow the gleam as a seaman steers into port by the harbor lights. He published the next year, in his Sabbath tract of 1846:HEVI 106.7

    “Many things now troubled my mind as to how I could make this great change-family, friends, and brethren; but this one passage of Scripture was, and always will be, as clear as a sunbeam; ‘What is that to thee? follow thou Me.’ In a few days my mind was made up to begin to keep the fourth commandment; and I bless God for the clear light He has shed upon my mind in answer to prayer and a thorough examination of the Scriptures on this great subject.”HEVI 106.8

    He felt he must publish the truth that stirred his soul. But first he wanted to meet that original group of Adventist Sabbathkeepers in Washington, New Hampshire. So up he came, into the mountain, evidently intent on listening to the testimony of the first Adventist believers to whom the Lord had committed the Sabbath light, and who had put it to the test of obedience.HEVI 106.9

    They used to show us the three tall maple trees under which Joseph Bates sat, on his brief visit, with Elder Wheeler and the Farnsworth brothers. I hope the New England hurricane of 1938 left unscathed these old landmarks of our adventist history. Nothing was ever written of that interview, I think, in our early publications. Our pioneers were too busy making history to write much about it, even as the writer of the book of Acts mentions but a few things in the life story of the apostolic band who carried the message of that hour into all the known world. Colossians 1:6.HEVI 106.10

    I like one little fragment of the story of Captain Bates’ visit, as Frederick Wheeler’s eldest son, George Wheeler, told it some years ago to his neighbor and friend, F. W. Bartle. The latter wrote:HEVI 106.11

    “George Wheeler told me about Elder Bates’ coming to his father’s home. He got in about ten o’clock at night, after the family were all in bed. George heard the knock at the door, and heard his father get up and let someone in. Then, he said, at times in the night he would wake up and hear the man and his father talking. They talked all night long. When George and the hired man came down in the morning, they were introduced to Elder Bates, from Massachusetts. After breakfast and family worship, his father told George and the hired man to go to the field to work, and he would come out later, for he wished to talk with Elder Bates further. About noon the father came out where they were at work, and said that Elder Bates had started for home.”HEVI 106.12

    “So,” writes F. W. Bartle, “it is evident that Elder Bates did not linger, but did what he had to do when he thought it should be done.”HEVI 107.1

    Our thanks to Brother Bartle, of New York, for preserving and passing on to us this fragmentary story of his visit, as a boy of ten or eleven remembered it to old age. Such narratives are real history. While the boy and the hired man were working in the field that morning, Elders Wheeler and Bates were evidently sitting with the Farnsworth brothers, and possibly others, under the shade of those three maples that are pointed out to us in front of Cyrus Farnsworth’s old brick house.HEVI 107.2

    We get from the history a picture of Elder Bates, wasting not a moment, “pressed like a cart beneath the sheaves,” as one phrase of our pioneers used often to tell of the pressure they were under to spread the truth.HEVI 107.3

    Less than a day could he spend counseling with those who could confirm his findings and teach him more of the Sabbath way. Then he must hurry on. It reminds one of the picture of the apostle Paul going down to Jerusalem, communicating his manner of preaching “privately to them which were of reputation,” lest by any means he should run in vain. Galatians 2:1-3.HEVI 107.4

    A similar picture of Elder Bates’ burden to push on with haste to tell the newly discovered truth, meets us as we see him crossing the bridge from New Bedford to his Fairhaven home. There we catch the spirit of the oft-told story of the meeting between him and an Adventist neighbor, Mr. Hall.HEVI 107.5

    “Good morning, Captain Bates,” said Mr. Hall, as they met on the bridge. “What is the news?”HEVI 107.6

    “The news is that the seventh day is the Sabbath,” Elder Bates replied; “and I am going to write a book about it.”HEVI 107.7

    These things were, after all, not so very long ago. At a camp meeting in Massachusetts a few years ago I was introduced to a brother. As we began to shake hands, the significance of the name I had heard dawned upon me. “Wait a minute,” I said, “your name is Joseph Bates Hall. How did you get that name? Are you the son of that Mr Hall who met Joseph Bates on the bridge as he came down from New Hampshire?” “Yes,” he said, “I am the son of that same Mr. Hall.”HEVI 107.8

    In the narrative of that meeting on the bridge we can fairly hear the crackle of the electrical energy in the spiritual atmosphere as the time came in 1845 when this key truth of the Sabbath, in the very setting and spirit of the advent message, was to be set more widely before men.HEVI 107.9

    History was being made. God was quickening the human instruments for the starting of a great work. For centuries the evil spirit of lawless tradition had been trampling God’s holy day underfoot. His Sabbath, He says, is the sign by which men may know that He is their Lord, the true and living God.HEVI 107.10

    The prophet Daniel had seen apostasy treading truth underfoot. How long? he had evidently cried out in his soul. How long shall this lawless power be allowed unopposed to tread down the truth?HEVI 107.11

    The Lord’s answer, probably in the last year of Babylon, had meant, in effect: Have patience. Wait until the end of 2300 years-until the year 1844. Then will the judgment hour come in the heavenly sanctuary above, and then on earth will come the movement that will lift up the downtrodden truths before men once again. A commandment-keeping people will appear who will lift up the banner of reform.HEVI 107.12

    Heaven had waited for the hour-through more than two millenniums. Would that people appear in 1844? They had to appear, for the sure word of prophecy said they would come.HEVI 107.13

    And, lo, as the year 1844 came, the people of the prophecy appeared, first in New Hampshire, and then round about. The angels must surely have been watching. I can imagine them saying, as they will say of the redeemed saints, Here they are! “Here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” Revelation 14:12. They had come!HEVI 107.14

    The time of the prophecy had come, and the people of the prophecy appeared. We must note how this rising Sabbath truth was brought to those who had light on the heavenly sanctuary and to those also among whom the gift of the Spirit of prophecy had appeared. W. A. S. The Review and Herald, March 23, 1939.HEVI 107.15