ROSWELL F. COTTRELL
The May 14, 1857, issue of the Review and Herald contains what appears to be the earliest Sabbath-keeping Adventist sermon that has survived. Entitled simply "Sermon preached to the Seneca Indians," - it was given by Elder Roswell F. Cottrell. As far as is known, this was also the first attempt by a Sabbath-keeping Adventist to share his faith with members of any American Indian tribe.
On February 2, 1857, R. F. Cottrell wrote a letter from his home in Mill Grove, New York, to Review editor Uriah Smith. He reported that during the previous four weeks, Elder William Ingraham had been visiting them. Besides holding meetings in Olcott, New York, the two men also visited the Seneca Indian Reservation on Tonawanda Creek, located about 10 miles from Cottrell's home.
On the reservation was a small Baptist church that had about fifty members. Elders Cottrell and Ingraham gave two sermons through a translator to the Indians. Elder Cottrell's second sermon was printed in the Review and Herald of June 10, 1858. It was entitled "A Discourse Written for the Seneca Indians, to be delivered through an Interpreter, No. 2." Apparently, the two men divided the speaking time, as in his second sermon Elder Cottrell refers to remarks just made by "my brother," but Elder Ingraham's sermon was not preserved.
In reporting on the meetings, Elder Cottrell wrote:
"We gave two lectures through an interpreter in their chapel. They manifested much interest. Their elder and deacon, and those among them who can read English seemed anxious to read, and we distributed some of our tracts among them gratuitously. Some said they believed from the signs that the coming of the Lord was near." [Review and Herald, February 12, 1857, p. 117]
Roswell Cottrell was raised as a Seventh Day Baptist, although in 1851 he accepted the hope of the second coming of Christ and joined the group that eventually developed into the Seventh-day Adventist Church. After the office of the Review and Herald was moved to Battle Creek, Michigan, in 1855, he served for a time as a member of the papers editorial committee. During the summer of 1856, R. F. Cottrell assisted Elders J. N. Loughborough and W. F. Ingraham who had come to New York State where the three men did tent evangelism. Since not much money was available to pay the workers, during the haying and harvesting season the three men worked in the fields for four and one-half days per week. For their field work, they were paid $1.00 per day. At the end of the tent season, Ingraham and Loughborough each received the equivalent of $4.00 per week for their labors. Roswell Cottrell was paid $3.00 per week for acting as tent-master and occasionally speaking.
Although R. F. Cottrell did not favor any formal organization of the denomination when such was first discussed in 1860, in the end he accepted it. Throughout the remainder of his life he was an active worker for the churchmostly in the states of New York and Pennsylvania. He died in 1892.
Elder Cottrell wrote a number of poems through the years that were published in the Review and Herald. In addition, he wrote several hymns, two of which are included in the current Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal.
Little is known about R. F. Cottrell's preaching. Adventist historian A. W. Spalding described him as a "powerful" preacher. However, the writer of Elder Cottrell's obituary candidly admitted, "As a speaker, his ability was fair. As a writer, it was exercised in the superlative degree."
SERMON PREACHED TO THE SENECA INDIANS
By Roswell F. Cottrell
Preached during January, 1857
Brethren and Friends:
The subject I wish to talk about is the blessed hope of the christian. What God has promised to them that love and obey him. Some christians think, as the Pagans do, that when a good man dies his spirit or soul goes right away to the spirit land where it is happy; some think that the body never will be raised to life; others, that at the end of the world the body will be raised, the judgment will take place, and all the good will go to heaven to live there forever.
We do not think that men will be rewarded before they are judged. We do not believe that when men die, good men go directly to happiness, and bad men to punishment, and afterwards their bodies be raised, they be judged, and sent back - the righteous to heaven, the wicked to hell, where they before have been receiving their reward, some for hundreds, others for thousands, of years. Men will be rewarded, as Christ says in the fourteenth of Luke, at the resurrection of the just. They rest in the grave till Christ comes and raises the dead and rewards his children with eternal life. A thousand years after that the wicked will be raised and be punished with the second death. In the twentieth chapter of Revelation it is said of the righteous, that "they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection; on such the second death hath no power."
The Bible teaching seems to be this: The Lord Jesus himself will descend from heaven, raise his sleeping saints, change the living to immortality; they will be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air, who will conduct them to those mansions in his Father's house which he has now gone to prepare; where they will reign with him a thousand years. Then, at the close of the thousand years, Christ and his saints will come down to earth again; the holy City will follow them, and be placed on a spot of earth prepared for it; the wicked who have been dead during the thousand years will be raised to life, and come up around the saints and the beloved City, and fire will come down from God out of heaven and devour them. The fire will melt and purify the earth and burn up the works that are in it, cleanse it from sin, sinners, and the curse which came upon it because man had sinned; the earth becomes new, and the righteous will dwell in it forever.
The completion then of the christian's hope will be to live eternally on the earth renewed, after sinners are cut off, and sin is unknown, and have a right to the New Jerusalem and the tree of life. O glorious hope! O blessed abode! All the saints of God will inherit substance. They will live in that bright world as really as they do now in this.
In Matt. v. 5, our Saviour says, Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. The meek are those who have the mild and gentle disposition of Christ. In other words, they are christians. And to them Christ promises the earth as their inheritance. This promise does not belong to this present life. The wicked have as much of the earth here, and more, than the righteous. The promise relates to the future. He does not say, the meek do inherit the earth, but they shall inherit it. It is a promise of their final reward. For according to David in the thirty-seventh Psalm, they will inherit the land and dwell therein forever. This must be fulfilled after the earth is made new. The Lord has promises that at some future time the whole earth shall be filled with his glory. [Num xiv, 21] But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord.
Some tell us that this will take place in the last days of the gospel dispensation; that before Christ comes the second time, there will be a thousand years of peace and safety, when the glory of God shall fill the earth. This they call the millennium. They suppose that during the gospel age all the world will be converted, and that there will be a spiritual reign, or a reign of righteousness for a thousand years before the personal coming of Christ.
Their mistake is this: they apply those prophecies which speak of a time of glory, when all the inhabitants of the earth will be righteous, to the present dispensation, whereas they should be applied to the new wearth, after the wicked are all destroyed, and consequently, all the people living are righteous. Their views of the latter part of the gospel day, do not agree with Paul's description of the last days. He describes the last days as time of great wickedness. In 2 Tim iii, he says, This know, also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false-accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, by denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
No part of the gospel dispensation can be later than the time here described; and instead of a time of glory to close up the gospel day, it is to be a time of great wickedness. And this is to be among professors of religion, "having a form of godliness." From this description we should not expect that the church will convert the world in the last days, but that the world will come very near converting the church to itself.
My friends, this state of things now exists. Wickedness prevails to a great extent in the church. The dark sin of slavery is tolerated in the most popular churches in the United States. Church members at the North are defiled by it, because slaveholders at the South are held in the communions. And when this time of great wickedness is seen in the church, the Apostle bids us, "From such turn away."
There are certain promises made by God to Abraham and his seed, which have never been fulfilled, and never can be till Abraham is raised from the dead. The promises relate to the possession of land, and Paul applies them to the whole earth. In Rom. Iv, 13, he speaks of the promise to Abraham, "that he should be the heir of the whole world." By turning to Genesis we find the promises made to Abraham. In the twelfth chapter and third verse, God says to Abraham, "In thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed." In chap. xiii, he says, "Lift up thine eyes and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward; for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever." And again he says, in chap. xvii 8, "I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession." But you will take notice that he did not then give him the land, he was a stranger in the land, and died without receiving it. But the promise of God is sure; therefore Abraham must rise from the dead in order to possess it. Then he can have it forever.
Some think that these promises to Abraham were fulfilled to his children, when they went into the land of Canaan, four hundred years and more after he was dead. But the promise said that Abraham himself should possess it, as well as his seed. From Acts vii, 5, we learn that Abraham had no inheritance in the land during his life-time. Speaking of him it is said, Then came he out of the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt in Charron; and from thence, when his father was dead, he removed him into this land wherein ye now dwell, (i.e., the land of Canaan, in which the Jews dwelt in the days of the apostles.) And he gave him none inheritance in it, no not so much as to set his foot on; yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child. Abraham is dead, but the land is promised to him, and the promise cannot fail: he will have it. God will raise him from the dead and give him the land.
Again, we read in Heb. xi, 8-10, 13, "By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God." "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth."
The Apostle goes on, and speaks of many of the ancients who died in faith, and in verses 39 and 40, says, "And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise. God having provided some better things for us, that they without us should not be made perfect." And what is the better things that God has provided of us Christians? That those ancient people of God should not receive the inheritance promised, and be made perfect before us, but that all those good men wait till the gospel has done its work, and prepared for all christians for the inheritance, and then all will be raised from the dead, be made perfect in immortality, and receive the promise made to the fathers, together. For we shall presently move that all Christians will share in the promised inheritance, as well as Abraham, the father of all the faithful.
But who is the seed of Abraham? for the promise was made not only to Abraham, but to his seed. In Gal. iii, 16, we have the answer. "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, and to seeds, as of many; but as of one, and to thy seed, which is Christ." Then Christ is the heir to the inheritance promised to Abraham. And is he the only heir? No. All true believers in him are heirs also. Rom. viii, 16. "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God. And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ." So all Christians, whether white, red or black, are joint heirs with Christ, to the estate promised to Abraham. Gal. iii, 29. "And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." Who does not want a share in the earth made new? We must be Christians indeed, and then the promise is sure to us.
But we cannot have it till the dead are raised, and they will not be raised till Christ comes. You can see then why we talk so much about his coming. We love him, and we want to see him. And we want to see that glorious land -the earth restored to all its primitive beauty, and the glory of the Lord filling it, as the waters fill the sea. When Christ comes the dead will be raised, and the christian's hope cannot be obtained before that time. Paul says in 1 Cor. xv, "If the dead rise not then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished." That is, they are out of existence forever. So all the hope of the christian depends upon the coming of Christ and the resurrection of the dead.
When Paul spake for himself, before Agrippa, he referred to the promise made of God to Abraham, and the other patriarchs, and showed that he expected to obtain the promise through the resurrection. Acts xxvi, 6. "And now," he said, "I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto the fathers; unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope's sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews." What! is Paul a Christian minister, hoping for that promise which God had made so long ago to their fathers? Yes, the same hope. And how does he expect to obtain it? By the resurrection of the dead. His next words are, "Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?" He defended himself by proving that the dead must be raised in order for God to fulfill his promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, that they should have an everlasting possession in the earth.
But some object that Peter [2 Pet. iii,] teaches the utter destruction of the earth. But we think he only teaches the destruction of the ungodly, and the purifying and renewing of the earth, to be the abode of the righteous. He compares its destruction by fire to its former destruction by water; and since the old world was destroyed by water, and yet the world is again inhabited, it is reasonable to conclude that when the present earth is destroyed by fire, it will only purify the earth, and out of its substance will come forth the new earth, the final abode of the saints. Peter says, "By the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water; where by the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished; but the heavens and the earth which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men." We learn from this that as the wicked were once destroyed by the flood, so, in the end, the ungodly will be destroyed by fire. Peter continues, "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also, and the works that are therein shall be burned up." It is not stated that the earth will be burned up, as some suppose, but the elements and the earth also will melt with fervent heat, and the works in it will be burned up. "Nevertheless," says Peter, "we according to his promise look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." The promise to which he alludes is recorded by the prophet Isaiah. Chap lxv, 17. "For, behold, I create new heavens, and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered nor come into mind." He then describes it as a place where there will be no more weeping, but all will be joy and gladness. He then goes on to say that they shall build houses and inhabit them, and plant vineyards and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build and another inhabit. That is, they will not pass away by death, for there will be no death there. He then says, "The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock," etc. John had a view of the same. He says, [Rev. xxi,] "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy City, New Jerusalem, coming down from God, out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven, saying, Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new."
You will take notice, he does not say he will make all new things, but all things new. That is, the present earth will be made over, or made new, and not a new one created from nothing. He says, "He that overcometh shall inherit all things," i.e., all things he has been describing. He then speaks of the fruit of the tree of life, and the water of life, and the great City with its high walls, and its twelve gates. All these things are promised to the faithful. They will inherit that beautiful land, and dwell therein forever.
Then will be fulfilled the promise of Jesus; Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Then the promised land will be given to Abraham and his seed. All the good will be joint-heirs with Christ. Then will be fulfilled the promise made to Daniel, where it is said, "And the kingdom, and the dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, not above the heaven, nor in the heaven, but under the whole heaven, i.e., over all the earth, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom." The new earth will be the kingdom that God has promised, through all the scriptures, to them that love him.
Are not these exceeding great and precious promises? Who would not wish to enjoy them? How much better is such a hope than the hope that many entertain of living in a land of spirits that has nothing literal and real about it. God has promised his people a real inheritance. He has described its beautiful glory in such a manner that he who believes the Word must fall in love with it. He has invited us to come and partake of the waters of life freely. Who would not be willing to obey God in order to become an heir of this kingdom? He says, Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and enter in through the gates of the city.
When the wicked are all destroyed out of the earth, and the righteous only have possession of it, then will be answered the prayer which our Saviour taught us to pray: Thy kingdom come: thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven.
Will you believe in Jesus Christ, and keep his Father's commandments, that you may inherit the earth and dwell in it forever? God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation he that fears God and works righteousness is accepted of him. But we must do better than the great mass of professing christians do. We must keep all his commandments if we would live.
At another time we shall like to talk to you about the ten commandments, and show where the great multitude are in error, not keeping them all right. We must be willing to do all that God requires. We must take up the cross and follow Christ if we would be his disciples.
I want to meet you in the promised kingdom; and may you learn and obey the truth, that finally you may sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the everlasting kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.
"No chilling winds nor poisonous breath
Can reach the healthful shore;
Sickness and sorrow, pain and death
Are felt and feared no more."
May God grant that we may meet in that glorious inheritance. Amen.
From the Review and Herald, May 4, 1857