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General Conference Bulletin, vol. 1

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    H. P. HOLSER

    THIS first hour is to be devoted to the consideration of our work in the Central European Mission. This is the first mission established by our people. The Sabbath was first preached in Central Europe thirty years ago by Elder Czechowski. Twenty years ago Elder Andrews was sent to that field to begin work. Ten years ago our publishing house in Basle was completed. From the beginning our work in this field had rather a smooth history; nothing phenomenal occurring in the work. There was a gradual growth, but in the last two years, however, a slight change has taken place, a new experience has been passed through; and it is my purpose to speak of this experience.GCB February 8, 1895, page 62.1

    We have learned some very important lessons on the message, and I thought that if these lessons could be learned by some here, it would be much more helpful to us than simply to give an account of some things that might interest us. We have learned that when we came to actual experience, we did not understand the message as we thought we did. I have been forcibly reminded of the illustration given by one of our Bible teachers, to the end that many believe the Scriptures until they come to a hard experience, and then throw them away at the very time when they most need them. This has been the experience of some in our field. Some thought they understood the message, but when the real test came, they were taken unawares.GCB February 8, 1895, page 62.2

    The illustration referred to is this: It is a common thing when the lakes first freeze over in this country for the boys to have a skate, and when the ice is thin and dangerous, they usually carry a pole along, to save themselves if they fall into an air hole. One of the boys skating in this way fell through the ice, and instead of holding onto his pole, threw it away and began to grasp for the ice to save himself.GCB February 8, 1895, page 62.3

    Our difficulty, as you have already learned, has been because of Sunday laws. In the year 1877, a Federal factory law was passed in Switzerland. Nearly all the countries in Europe have these factory laws. They are largely the outgrowth of the agitation of the Socialists for the protection of the working classes; among other provisions is a Sunday clause, requiring that no work be done on Sunday and on various church days which may be named to the number of eight per year. These laws are made in the interests of the working classes to protect them, and it is claimed to have no reference whatever to religion. Every establishment employing five hands regularly is considered a factory. Therefore our publishing house at Basle comes under this law. In the beginning our house did not take a very decided position on this question. Some work was performed, the more noisy work being omitted on Sunday. However, this led to occasional fines.GCB February 8, 1895, page 62.4

    The matter was brought before the Federal Factory Inspector by Brother B. L. Whitney, and this Inspector after investigating the case said that the object of the law was to protect the laboring classes and secure one day of rest per week, and if anybody has a rest day per week it is this people; therefore they should not be molested for Sunday work. After this there was a respite for some time. However, no work was performed with the machinery making any noise on that day. That was the case when I went to Europe seven years ago, and it continued on in the same way in the publishing house as before. But a little more than a year ago, we were fined for doing quiet work on Sunday and other church holidays. When we were fined for quiet work, we began to study the matter more seriously and came to the conclusion that we had been compromising all the time by ceasing part of our work. We called the hands together and freely considered the situation. The unanimous sentiment was that we had been doing wrong and all took a decided stand to work on Sunday as on other days. However, we did not pretend to decide this question as a body, but recognized it as an individual matter, and stated to the hands: “As directors, we declare the house open. We do not require that you work on Sunday, but everyone that desires to do so, may come and work.” The result was that all worked, and shortly we were visited by the police. They came in and said, “You are working to-day.” We answered, “Yes, we are working, and we have a right to work,” and explained to them why we were working. The result was first a fine of one dollar, then a fine of two dollars, then a third fine of $10, then another of $30. At this time it was thought best to appeal the case.GCB February 8, 1895, page 62.5

    About this time I started for a visit to Turkey. The brethren investigated the matter somewhat more fully and they found that there was little hope in making an appeal; not being quite clear on the question anyway they decided not to appeal, and as the fines kept coming thicker and faster, they considered the question more seriously, and some of them thought they might cease work on Sunday without compromising their position. All did not reach that conclusion but many did, and their principal reason for it was this: “This is a factory law, made in the interests of the laboring classes and not in the interests of religion; so we will stop our work in the factory on Sunday and labor at home or elsewhere. Another reason was, “This is a factory law and made for the good of humanity. If we take our stand against it, it will place us in a bad light. It would be against our work instead of for its best interests.” Further, “The fines will only continue and grow heavier, the property will be taken, the hands will be thrown out of employment, etc., etc.” But the chief reason was that we could work anyway, the law not prohibiting our work except in the factory.GCB February 8, 1895, page 62.6

    As we did not appeal, of course we were expected to pay the fine at once. As I was absent, however, and being personally held responsible, the police decided to await my return before enforcing the collection of the fine. On returning, the first question was, “Will you pay the fine? and what shall we do in the future?” That opened the whole question anew, and it was discussed quite fully. Of course we said we could not pay the fine, for that would be consenting to the justice of it. But some said, “You can pay it without consenting to it; you are condemned to pay it; if you do not pay it, it will be taken by force, and there will be additional expense; the best way is to get out of it as cheaply as you can.” But we did not see that it could be worked in that way. We argued that if we should pay it, by that act we would consent to it; we cannot even pay it unwillingly; it would be acting very much on the same principle as some who are convinced that they should keep the Sabbath, but do not. they say that all day their heart is not in their work, but it is on the Sabbath. They would like to keep it. Can any one keep the Sabbath in this way? Certainly not. Is it not the same if we should pay the fine, protesting against it at the same time? No, we cannot yield even that much in the matter. We must know what our ground is, what our rights and duties are before God, and not yield a hair’s breadth in the matter. That being the case, of course we cannot pay one cent of the fine, although it might cost us more: that is none of our business.GCB February 8, 1895, page 63.1

    Then again it was argued that if we do not stop our work on Sunday, these fines will be rapidly increased (they can be increased to five hundred francs and three months’ imprisonment for a single offense), hence you may be kept in prison all the time and cannot do anything, and the property will be taken: it will be a great deal better to make this little shift and avoid all this difficulty. but others said, “It is not our business to consider the consequences, that is not our part in the matter, we are here to preach the Third Angel’s Message, and the Third Angel’s Message is a warning against the papacy. We are to preach the gospel and in preaching the gospel we must represent the gospel principles in our lives to begin with, and if we do not do that, our preaching is in vain. It would be just as effectual as it would for a person to preach the Sabbath and not keep the Sabbath. He would not make many converts.GCB February 8, 1895, page 63.2

    We reasoned further, This house was built for the spread of the message, it stands for the message, and its action will be taken as the action of our people. It was first argued that this is not an individual matter but applies to the factory only. We as individuals can work, and thus not compromise in the matter. but on the other hand it looked to us to be more important than an individual matter, because it represented our people, and will be taken as a representative by our people, and although it should not be so in any case, our people will follow the example set there. Therefore, it is doubly important that the right course should be taken.GCB February 8, 1895, page 63.3

    Furthermore, this house was built in the name of the Lord, for his work. Must we preserve this property by compromising a little? Is the Lord dependent upon such means as that? Shall we deny the very object for which it was established in order to save the property? In other words, Is the Lord able to take care of his own house? We are the Lord’s servants and it is the duty of the servant to obey. It is the business of the master to know what he is about and it is not the servant’s duty to shrink back from the commands of his master, especially if the master is one who understands his business and is able to take care of the consequences. So we are servants of the Lord. We know what he commands us. Now, if we do that, we have nothing to fear. We have only to fear in case we disobey. That is the only line on which there can be danger, and if the Lord permits that this house should be closed, and the property be taken in consequence of our obedience, it will be because it is for the best. The house in that way will be serving a better purpose than it will be for us to try to preserve it by disobedience. We can be sure in advance that whatever the enemy can bring upon us, the Lord, being so much more powerful, will turn it all to the advancement of the truth and bring good out of it. So we may rejoice in the fact that the message will be advanced by the difficulties that may be brought upon us.GCB February 8, 1895, page 63.4

    Some felt that way, others did not, and said you should consider more seriously the fact that you may set twenty-five hands out on the street and take their bread out of their hands. If the house should be closed in a week or two, what will all these do for a living. it was not hard to answer such a question as that. Who made all the bread in the world? Isn’t it the Lord? And if he makes the food for all living, cannot he care for twenty-five? And again, we must all learn sooner or later, that it is by the Word that we live and not by bread alone. We are being tested in the message for this very purpose. Perhaps before many of us realize it, we will be tried on that very point; the Lord will not allow us to come right up to the climax before being tried. We must learn to trust God. We are coming to that point where everything will be taken from us, where the very earth beneath our feet will tremble, and quake, and flee away. And then we must stand on the solid rock, and if we have not learned that before, we will not stand then.GCB February 8, 1895, page 63.5

    Another objection raised was this: It will bring you in to conflict with the authorities; it will give you a bad name; it will put you in a bad position, and what excuse can you have for coming in conflict with the authorities on such a line as this. They said the issue was not squarely in it; when there comes a law prohibiting every one from working in every place, we would not consent to it. They did not recognize that the issue was in the situation as it was then. But is it a fact that Satan will ever allow the matter to come around in such a way as to make it plain to every one that the issue is there? I do not look for it, especially among Seventh-day Adventists. He knows too much for that. He knows what we have been preaching, and he will never come with a full-fledged law that we will all be able to recognize; but he will come with his most subtle deceptions upon those who are watching for these things.GCB February 8, 1895, page 64.1

    Although it was not the intention of those who made the factory law to exalt Sunday, there was a master mind behind it all, and that was to prepare something that would deceive the people, and especially us.GCB February 8, 1895, page 64.2

    But to go back to that point, how will you excuse yourself before the world for taking such a stand as this? I cannot better explain this question than by quoting from Brother Waggoner, in “Present Truth.” He said that we are not in conflict with the authorities in this matter. it is a conflict between the authorities and the word of God. We take our stand upon the word of God, and the authorities make laws that come in conflict with that Word; it is our place to rely upon the word of God, and let the conflict between the authorities and that Word go on. As long as we stay upon the rock, we are safe, — there is no danger from any storm.GCB February 8, 1895, page 64.3

    Soon after I returned from Turkey, the authorities hearing of it, came and asked for the 320 francs, — the sum of the fines. I explained to them that I could not pay it, and gave the reasons why. Then it was turned over to the public collectors, who sent an order to pay it, giving a list of the fines. This order was returned with a refusal to pay. I soon received an order to appear before the civil court, where I again gave the reasons why I refused to pay. The court decided that the collection should be proceeded with.GCB February 8, 1895, page 64.4

    Shortly after this, a notice came from the collectors that on a certain day they would come to attach my goods. At this time it appeared that they could take my personal property only and could not take anything from the Association. This was a source of joy, because before this it was said by some, “It is quite easy to stand firm when you have nothing to lose;” but now this situation was relieved. On a stated day, the officer came to attach the goods. At first he said: “You had better pay this; it will save lots of trouble and expense.” This was a new man and we took the occasion to give him the reasons why we could not pay it. He labored hard with me for about an hour before he would proceed to attach the goods. He then wanted to know what he should take. I told him I could not tell him. This was a case of persecution and he would have to do the whole thing himself. He looked the rooms over and asked my wife what he should take. Her answer was about the same as mine. After he had listed enough to cover fines, we went to the office and had another conversation, when he returned.GCB February 8, 1895, page 64.5

    We afterwards received notice of the sale of the goods, in case they were not redeemed within twenty days. At the expiration of the time the goods were taken to the public auction rooms. We did not know when they would be sold, but had a small tract on the situation prepared to print and circulate as soon as we learned when the sale would take place. Thursday evening the authorities notified us that the goods would be sold the next Monday. That gave us only Friday in which to print our tract. But we could print only half enough, so we were obliged to run the presses on Sunday. It seems as though the Lord brought us into such a place that we would either have to abandon our plan or run on Sunday. The presses had not been running on Sunday, because the pressman did not desire to do so. However, this brought it where there was a certain pressure on the matter.GCB February 8, 1895, page 64.6

    Well, these tracts were circulated in the city, about fifteen thousand of them. We put one in every house, so that when the sale took place, the people all knew what was going on. The auctioneer said to me when he took the goods, “Of course you will be down to buy these goods in.” I told him, “No, I do not care to buy any more goods to be seized.”GCB February 8, 1895, page 64.7

    Many of these tracts were returned with marginal notes on them, and it would be rather interesting to you to read the criticisms. I have a whole stack of them returned, and among all not one favorable one. Those that felt somewhat favorable did not have the courage to express it, they kept still at least. Some of these notes ran something like this: “It served you just right,” “If I had been judge, I would have made it much heavier.” “You should have had in addition to this, twenty stripes.” “If you do not like it in our country, you had better go somewhere else.” Again, “You have gone crazy.” “You are a colossal buffalo. Present yourself to the Zoological Gardens.” But we found that thinking people felt differently about the matter.GCB February 8, 1895, page 64.8

    For running our presses on Sunday to print this tract, we were duly fined again, and this time 200 francs and three weeks imprisonment, and in case the fine was not paid, forty days for that. Here the question came up, What shall we do in the future, and after duly considering it, we thought it would be best to close the press room all the days in the week, and have the press work done elsewhere. it is not our duty to remain in the same place and submit ourselves to repeated persecution, but it is our privilege to flee when persecuted. The pressroom is the department that caused the offense in the past, and while it would be putting us to some inconvenience to close it, it would be consistent with our principles.GCB February 8, 1895, page 65.1

    As soon as this decision was made, we visited the publishing houses to get their prices for press work, and we took this occasion to talk with them about the truth, making the most of it, and in every case we found them in a very favorable state of mind. We were surprised to see how much sympathy they manifested, but in every case they tried to show us the way out by compromising a little, and cited the Jews as an example. The Jews have been persecuted in Switzerland, and they have given away about all their liberties. “You can do as they do, and keep the Sabbath.” But we replied to them that we had not an India rubber conscience, that could be stretched to suit the circumstances, that we could not vary in the least, although it would be a financial loss. That is just the testimony that those people need, and I doubt if we could have given it in any other way; there was something that they could appreciate. They knew what it meant to have an office fitted up and allowed to lie idle.GCB February 8, 1895, page 65.2

    This visit to the publishers convinced us that the Lord is giving a testimony to the city in that way; these men are leading men, connected with the higher officers in the city, and some of them said, “The judges are not easy on this matter.” They were in a position to know better than we, and doubtless it was true.GCB February 8, 1895, page 65.3

    The last publisher we visited to inquire prices of press work, at first seemed a little indifferent, but just as soon as he heard a statement of the case, it seemed to touch his heart; we could see a change come over his countenance, and when we asked his prices, he replied: “I do not want to take advantage of the situation in the least. Tell me what it costs you to do this work, and I will do it for the same.” “But no, you might be the loser, hence we prefer that you state your price.” So he figured on it, and his estimate was considerably below what we could do the work for ourselves. The highest estimate that we had for printing a certain work was sixty-four francs; this man’s price for the same was fifteen francs.GCB February 8, 1895, page 65.4

    From this point on, we had some interesting experiences that show how the Lord works. We were inexperienced and did not know how it would come out, but the Lord has led us and gone before us and prepared us to take steps that were right, and perhaps at some future time we can talk about these.GCB February 8, 1895, page 65.5

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