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Ellen G. White: The Progressive Years: 1862-1876 (vol. 2)

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    Bounties to Encourage Enlistment

    For a time to those in Battle Creek, the war seemed far away. Little was happening on the battlefields, and James and Ellen White were involved in the various church interests.2BIO 39.6

    But as the war progressed, the President issued calls for more soldiers. Each State was required to furnish a certain quota of men for each call, and this in turn was apportioned to each county, city, and ward. If the number of those who freely volunteered failed to reach the required quota, it would become necessary to institute a draft. To avoid this, ways had to be found to encourage the enlistment of men to make up the required number. To promote enlistment, citizens’ committees were formed in many municipalities; they arranged to offer bounties to be paid to recruits. Beginning at $25, they were soon raised to as high as $100 as more and more men were called to the front.2BIO 39.7

    Because Seventh-day Adventists were particularly anxious to avoid the threatened draft, which would involve Sabbathkeepers, James White heartily participated in the matter of raising funds to pay attractive bonuses to volunteers. Seventh-day Adventists as a rule were conscientiously opposed to the bearing of arms, yet they felt it to be their duty to join to raise money for the payment of the bonuses offered to volunteers who had no religious scruples against Army service.2BIO 40.1

    James White, J. P. Kellogg, and other leading Adventists attended and took part in a number of mass meetings of Battle Creek citizens. In these meetings there was free discussion of the activities of the war, but particularly the problem of furnishing the quota of men, if possible, without the necessity of the draft. White made it clear that Sabbathkeeping young men had not refrained from volunteering because they were cowards or ease-loving. Though they were generally poor, they would willingly contribute as freely as the well-to-do.2BIO 40.2

    W. C. White recounts:2BIO 40.3

    James White would relate to his wife some of his experiences in these mass meetings. Several of his associates would appoint him as their representative to offer their pledges to the fund at the most opportune time. So he would say in the meeting, “In behalf of my friend, A. B., who is subject to the draft, I am authorized to subscribe_____dollars. Also in behalf of my friend, C. D., who is not subject to the draft, but who is willing to share the burden of the bonus fund, I am authorized to subscribe _____dollars.”—DF 320, “The Spirit of Prophecy and Military Service,” p. 6.

    With no end of the war in sight, the church faced the certain threat of a national draft of able-bodied men. As the summer wore on, excitement ran high in the Northern communities; Seventh-day Adventists asked themselves what they would do in such a situation. From their ranks none, or almost none, had enlisted. They had maintained a low profile, but now they were being watched. Writing of this in early 1863, Ellen White explained:2BIO 40.4

    The attention of many was turned to Sabbathkeepers because they manifested no greater interest in the war and did not volunteer. In some places they were looked upon as sympathizing with the Rebellion. The time had come for our true sentiments in relation to slavery and the Rebellion to be made known. There was need of moving with wisdom to turn away the suspicions excited against Sabbathkeepers.—Ibid., 1:356. [1.6] James White's Article “The Nation”2BIO 41.1

    By August, 1862, it seemed to James White that something must be said. He placed an editorial in the Review and Herald of August 12 titled “The Nation.” In this article he expressed his own opinion of the responsibility for the acts of the drafted soldiers. This was to cause considerable controversy. He wrote:2BIO 41.2

    For the past ten years the Review has taught that the United States of America were a subject of prophecy, and that slavery is pointed out in the prophetic word as the darkest and most damning sin upon this nation. It has taught that Heaven has wrath in store for the nation which it would drink to the very dregs, as due punishment for the sin of slavery. And the anti-slavery teachings of several of our publications based upon certain prophecies have been such that their circulation has been positively forbidden in the slave States. Those of our people who voted at all in the last Presidential election, to a man voted for Abraham Lincoln. We know of not one man among Seventh-day Adventists who has the least sympathy for secession.2BIO 41.3

    But for reasons which we will here state, our people have not taken that part in the present struggle that others have....2BIO 41.4

    The position which our people have taken relative to the perpetuity and sacredness of the law of God contained in the Ten Commandments is not in harmony with all the requirements of war. The fourth precept of that law says, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy”: the sixth says, “Thou shalt not kill.” But in the case of drafting, the government assumes the responsibility of the violation of the law of God, and it would be madness to resist. He who would resist until, in the administration of military law, he was shot down, goes too far, we think, in taking the responsibility of suicide.—The Review and Herald, August 12, 1862. (Italics supplied.)2BIO 41.5

    In words of commendation and praise he referred to the United States, its government, and its laws:2BIO 42.1

    We are at present enjoying the protection of our civil and religious rights, by the best government under heaven. With the exception of those enactments pressed upon it by the slave power, its laws are good.... Whatever we may say of our amiable President, his cabinet, or of military officers, it is Christlike to honor every good law of our land. Said Jesus, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's” (Matthew 22:21). Those who despise civil law should at once pack up and be off for some spot on God's footstool where there is no civil law.—Ibid.2BIO 42.2

    He then declared that “for us to attempt to resist the laws of the best government under heaven, which is now struggling to put down the most hellish rebellion since that of Satan and his angels, ...would be madness.” He added:2BIO 42.3

    Those who are loyal to the government of Heaven, true to the constitution and laws of the Ruler of the universe, are the last men to “sneak” off to Canada, or to Europe, or to stand trembling in their shoes for fear of a military draft. Is God their Father? He is a mighty God. “Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing” (Isaiah 40:15).—Ibid.2BIO 42.4

    In explanation and defense of James White's position ventured on the draft—when it should come—a few weeks later Ellen White, in the heat of a very earnest discussion with various ones who were divided on the matter of the responsibility for actions of soldiers drafted into military service, declared:2BIO 42.5

    I was shown the excitement created among our people by the article in the Review headed, “The Nation.” Some understood it in one way, and some another. The plain statements were distorted, and made to mean what the writer did not intend. He gave the best light that he then had. It was necessary that something be said.—Testimonies for the Church, 1:356.2BIO 43.1

    She wrote a statement that bridged several months of history:2BIO 43.2

    I was shown that some moved very indiscreetly in regard to the article mentioned. It did not in all respects accord with their views, and instead of calmly weighing the matter, and viewing it in all its bearings, they became agitated, excited, and some seized the pen and jumped hastily at conclusions which would not bear investigation. Some were inconsistent and unreasonable. They did that which Satan is ever hurrying them to do, namely, acted out their own rebellious feelings.—Ibid.

    James White's editorial was broad, covering many points in the relation that he suggested Seventh-day Adventists should take toward the issues and the government. But most readers focused attention on his opinion that in regard to the draft, it was the government, not the draftee, that was fully responsible for any violations of God's laws.2BIO 43.3

    The Review of August 26 carried his appeal for “any well-written articles, calculated to shed light upon our duty as a people in reference to the present war.” Mrs. T. M. Steward of Wisconsin had written to Ellen White inquiring on some points relating to the war, and the draft that seemed imminent. Ellen answered this August 19, 1862, just a week after the editorial had appeared. Without special light on the matter, a fact that she clearly acknowledged, she advocated a moderate stance:2BIO 43.4

    I am not fully settled in regard to taking up arms, but this looks consistent to me. I think it would please the enemy for us to obstinately refuse to obey the law of our country (when this law is not against our religious faith) and sacrifice our lives. It looks to me that Satan would exult to see us shot down so cheaply, for our influence could not have a salutary influence upon beholders, as the death of the martyrs. No, all would think we were served just right, because we would not come to the help of our imperiled country. Were our religious faith at stake, we should cheerfully lay down our lives and suffer for Christ.2BIO 43.5

    Now is the time we are to be tested, and the genuineness of our faith proved. Those who have merely professed the faith, without an experience, will be brought into a trying place. Young and old should now seek for an experience in the things of God. A superficial work will not avail now. We must have the principles of truth wrought deep in the soul, and practice it in our life, and then we shall be girded with strength in the day of trouble and conflict before us. We must trust in God now. His arm will sustain us.—Letter 7, 1862.2BIO 44.1

    And God did sustain the believers, and He provided a way of escape when the crisis finally came months later.2BIO 44.2

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