IT HAPPENED HERE
Here, in 1793, came to live the boy Joseph Bates when less than a year old. His father, also named Joseph, made his residence on the “Meadow Farm,” the house still standing.
The elder Joseph Bates was one of fourteen men who, in 1798, banded together to build the
But “in my schoolboy days,” he says, “my most ardent desire was to become a sailor.” Accordingly, in 1807, Joseph Bates, in his fifteenth year sailed on his maiden voyage to
From hence, also, after his return in full manhood, he sailed as second mate, first mate, and finally master of ships, first to Europe, then in successful adventurous voyages to
It was 1828 when Joseph Bates, home from a voyage to
Joseph Bates had a faithful and devoted wife, who as a girl was Prudence Nye. Prudence he had known while still a youth; and when in 1818 they were married, it was to walk the road of life together for fifty-two years. For the first ten of these years she was the typical sea captain’s wife, waiting through long voyages in hope, happily in her case never disappointed, of seeing him again. She planted a Bible in his sea chest, and other books of devotion that really brought him to his Saviour. And while he doubted his acceptance, she hailed the evidence of his letters and his diaries as proof of his conversion, and she encouraged him to know that he was accepted of Christ. So when he came to land before his last voyage, he joined her church, the Christian Connection.
Now, when in 1831, he sold his first residence to his brother, Franklin Bates, he joined with three others members of his church to build a Christian meetinghouse on Washington Street, in which he kept an interest until a change of views in 1839 induced him to dispose of it. That church building, on the corner of Washington and Walnut Streets, is now used as a recreation center. In March of 1844 William Miller preached in this church and thirty-three persons left the church to form a Second Advent Company.
We do not know where he was living when on that memorable morning in 1846 he sat down to write his first tract on the Sabbath. Nor also where he was living in the fall of 1847 when he decided to write another Sabbath tract with a single
“Joseph, where did this flour come from?”
“I bought it. Isn’t that what you wanted?”
“Yes, but have you, Captain Joseph Bates, a man who has sailed with cargoes worth thousands of dollars, gone out and bought just four pounds (1.8 kilograms) of flour?”
“Wife, for those four pounds (1.8 kilograms) of flour I spent the last money I have on earth.”
It was true, then! Prudence Bates was a devoted wife. She had approved of her husband’s spending his money in the cause of the coming of Christ, for she held with him in that. But she left finances in his hands; and as their fortunes dwindled, she pressed back the fear and the question of how much he had left. Now she knew. Moreover, she was not with him in this new Sabbath truth, nor would she be for another couple or more years. During that time he used to drive with her to her Christian church on Sunday, go home, and come back to get her after service, for he would not keep the pope’s sabbath; he kept the Lord’s Sabbath. In 1850 she followed him into the third angel’s message with its Sabbath truth, and for twenty years, until her death, she was a devoted and beautiful Sabbathkeeping Christian worker. But now!
Her apron flew to her eyes, as the tears flowed, and with sobbing voice she cried, “what are we going to do?”
Joseph Bates rose to his full height. “I am going to write a book on the Sabbath, and distribute it everywhere, to carry the truth to the people,” he said.
“Yes, but what are we going to live on?”
“Oh, the Lord will provide.”
“Yes! ‘The Lord will provide’! That’s what you always say.” Exit, with sobs and tears.
Well, Joseph Bates couldn’t do anything about it, that he knew. So he turned from his husbandly duties to his apostleship duties, and began to write. Within half an hour he was impressed that he should go to the post office, for a letter with money in it. He went, and found the letter, which contained a ten dollar bill, from a man who said he felt impressed that Elder Bates needed money. With this he purchased ample supplies, sending them ahead to a surprised wife. When he arrived at home, she excitedly demanded to know where they came from.
“Oh,” said, he, “The Lord sent them.”
“What do you mean, ‘The Lord sent them’?”
“Prudy,” said he, “read this letter, and you will know how the Lord provides.”
Prudence Bates read it; and then she went in and had another good cry, but for a different reason.
And the message of the Sabbath went over the land. Today more than six million believers throughout the world are the result. Somewhere in Fairhaven Joseph Bates paid his lone York Shilling as an act of faith that he was the servant of Jehovah-jirah, the Lord who would provide. And he believed not in vain.
—Adapted from A. W. Spalding, Footprints, pp. 40-48.