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    Chapter 4—But How will We Support Ourselves?

    Becoming an Adventist minister in the mid-nineteenth century was a serious and difficult thing. The church gave him no regular income. Instead he had to support himself by farming or working at some trade. The time he had left over from working he devoted to the ministry. A few, including the Whites, did spend their whole time as traveling evangelists. But the Adventists had no regular church organization and no system of paying those serving as minister-evangelists or editors and writers. They had to depend on themselves and the occasional gift of farm produce. A few more wealthy Adventists donated some money, but such cases were rare.AOT 33.1

    Not until 1859 did the Adventists begin any kind of systematic offerings for the support of the clergy. For a number of years ministers received such “pay” as a bushel of wheat, a sack of potatoes, a bushel of turnips, and, at times, some cash from a believer. Entering the ministry was a risky venture for a man with a family, especially if he desired to spend his full time at it. For a time James White had to mow hay and work on the railroad to feed his family.AOT 33.2

    When John Norton Loughborough began to believe that God wanted him to join the Seventh-day Adventist ministry, he faced an important decision. Somewhat younger than Mrs. White, he sensed a little of her disappointment when Christ did not come in 1844. Afterward he served for three years as a lay preacher among the non-Sabbathkeeping Adventists. In 1852, at twenty years of age, he accepted the Sabbath doctrine and felt a desire to return to the ministry. Yet he hesitated. He wanted to save enough money to support his wife.AOT 34.1

    Before his acceptance of Seventh-day Adventism he had successfully sold sash locks for windows. After joining the church, it seemed that no matter how hard he tried, he could not make his business succeed. Although builders admitted they needed locks in their construction, they would not buy any from him. Frequently the sales from a five-day week did not produce enough profit to pay for his transportation and hotel bills. He had once managed to save thirty-five dollars, but his continuing expenses ate that up, and he could no longer afford to leave Rochester, New York, on sales trips. Things began to look desperate for him. As his income vanished, the feeling that he should enter the ministry grew. Yet with scarcely any money on hand, he knew that he and his wife could not live on an Adventist minister’s tiny and extremely uncertain income.AOT 34.2

    By the middle of December, 1852, his savings had dwindled to a three-cent coin. As he attended the next Sabbath meeting held in the White home on Mount Hope Avenue, it seemed that a cloud hung over everyone present. Someone suggested that prayer would remove the strange feeling. During the prayer Mrs. White went into vision. Coming out she explained that the reason such a depression hung over the meeting was that Loughborough was resisting the conviction of duty. God gave Mrs. White the vision so that she could make a special plea to John.AOT 34.3

    “He is resisting the conviction of duty,” she said. “God wants him to devote himself completely to preaching.”AOT 35.1

    Going home after the meeting, John began to do some serious thinking. In prayer he wrestled with his problem. The problems of supporting himself as a minister loomed before him, but the danger of resisting God’s will for his life appeared even more serious. The conflict raged within his mind. Finally he made a decision. He would go preach, confident that God would open the way. His tension relaxed, and peace filled his mind.AOT 35.2

    Monday morning his wife came to him for some shopping money, not knowing he had only three cents left. “John,” she asked, “can you let me have some money? We’re out of matches, and I also need some thread from town.”AOT 35.3

    Reaching in his pocket for the tiny silver coin, he handed it to her, explaining, “Here is a three-cent piece. It’s all I have. Get a penny’s worth of matches, a skein of thread, and bring me back the other cent. I want to have a little money in my pocket.” He paused a moment. “You know, Mary, I can’t seem to make my business succeed no matter how hard I try. I don’t quite understand it.”AOT 35.4

    Bursting into tears at the sudden thought of their poverty, his wife sobbed, “John, what are we going to do?”AOT 36.1

    “I am going to return to preaching.”AOT 36.2

    “But if you do, how will we live?”AOT 36.3

    “I don’t know, but God does. As soon as I made my decision to rejoin the ministry, I felt an assurance that God would take care of us.”AOT 36.4

    Not sharing his faith, Mary ran into the bedroom and threw herself down on the bed to cry for an hour. Unable to cry anymore, she washed her face and walked to the village. John sighed as he watched her leave, then returned to his study of the message he would be preaching to others. A little later someone rapped on the door.AOT 36.5

    “Are you John Loughborough—the lock salesman?” the stranger asked when John went to the door.AOT 36.6

    John nodded.AOT 36.7

    “I’m from Middleport, about forty miles up the Erie Canal.”AOT 36.8

    Loughborough invited the man inside.AOT 36.9

    “My health has been rather poor lately,” the man explained after they had exchanged greetings, “and I am going to Ohio for a better climate. I want to take along some kind of business to meet expenses as I travel and find a new home. Someone suggested that I try selling locks, and Thomas Garbut recommended I contact you to get some of Mr. Arnold’s patent sash locks. Eighty dollars’ worth would tide me along for a while. Pick me out an assortment, and I’ll come tomorrow and pick them up and pay for them.” For walking a half mile to the factory, Loughborough earned a commission of twenty-six dollars, a sum then having over ten times the purchasing power it would have today.AOT 36.10

    Two hours after the customer left, Mary returned from her shopping and found her husband in a cheerful mood. Somewhat upset at his behavior, she asked why he seemed so happy. He told her about his sale to a man who had traveled almost forty miles to buy some locks, and instead of going a half mile farther to the factory, had stopped at the Loughborough home. Again Mary went to the bedroom to cry, but because of a different emotion.AOT 37.1

    With the profit from the sale, John bought firewood, flour, and other supplies his wife needed.AOT 37.2

    The next Sabbath the Adventist believers in western New York held a general religious meeting. Again Mrs. White received a vision. She was shown that Loughborough was correct in giving himself to the work of the ministry.AOT 37.3

    That night Hiram Edson, an early Adventist leader and one of the first interpreters of the sanctuary doctrine, arrived in Rochester on the nine o’clock evening train. He had not planned to attend the general meeting in Rochester, some forty miles from his home. But while praying during family worship, he had the strong impression that he should go to the city, that someone needed him there. Not able to throw the thought off, he went to the barn and prayed. The voice telling him to go to Rochester grew stronger and more persistent.AOT 37.4

    Catching the first train west after the Sabbath ended, he arrived after the Adventists’ evening meeting. He told James White about the strong urge he had felt to come to Rochester. “What do you want of me here?” he inquired.AOT 37.5

    “Get old Charlie [the Whites’ horse],” James White replied, “and the carriage, and take Loughborough out on a six-week preaching circuit in southwestern New York and Pennsylvania.”AOT 38.1

    John Loughborough continued his preaching career for over three fourths of a century. He served as an administrator and as the denomination’s first historian. He helped establish tithing among Adventists. The salary for today’s ministers comes from the tithe.AOT 38.2

    Loughborough accomplished much for the Seventh-day Adventist Church, but without Mrs. White’s influence he might never have become a minister.AOT 38.3

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