Taking Their Religion Seriously
From the very beginning of his preaching career, Elder James White (1821-1881), co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist church, had an unquenchable desire to see sinners saved. Having experienced the joy of salvation for himself, he wanted others to share in it, also. The thought that anyone might be lost bore heavily upon him. He described what happened to him one time when, as a young Millerite Adventist preacher, he was speaking near Richmond, Maine, about the signs of Christ's second coming as recorded in Matthew 24.
As I closed [the meeting] . . . the power of God came upon me to that degree that I had to support myself with both hands hold of the pulpit. . . . As I viewed the condition of sinners, lost without Christ, I called on them with weeping, repeating several times, "Come to Christ, sinner, and be saved when he shall appear in his glory. Come, poor sinner, before it shall be too late. . . ."
The place was awfully solemn. Ministers and people wept - some aloud. . . . I ceased speaking, and wept aloud over that dear people with depth of feeling such as he only knows whom God has called to preach his truth to sinners. . . . (Life Incidents, p. 87)
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In 1868 another incident occurred that showed the depth of feelings of those pioneers toward their work. At the time, on each Sunday morning, The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald workers met in the editor's room for a season of prayer. Elder James White met with them on one occasion when he was recuperating from a stroke. He led out in prayer, asking God's blessing on the publishing house, and on the Review that every page be the means of saving many, and that every printer, editor and worker might see the fruits of their labor in the new earth. As James White prayed, he broke down and wept. Elder Uriah Smith (1832-1903), who was editor of the paper at the time, wrote, "For a season we all wept together in silence, save the audible sobs, and the hearty response from those present" (Hammond, Uriah Smith, p. 44).
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On another occasion years later, Elder Uriah Smith failed to return the greeting of a lame fellow worker, Sands Lane (1844-1906). Elder Smith, who himself was lame, having had his foot amputated as a twelve-year-old boy, later learned that the younger man had taken offense. Surprised, Elder Smith decided to make things right. Since the Lord's Supper and foot-washing services were being celebrated at the church the following Sabbath, Uriah Smith asked for the privilege of washing Elder Lane's feet. The offended young man wept at this gesture of kindness by the older minister, and as they served each other, the two men talked of the day when neither would be lame any longer. For years, Elder Sands Lane related this experience as an illustration of brotherly love (Durand, p. 36).
Whether for an entire congregation, or for staff members in the Review and Herald office, or for an individual fellow worker, our pioneers took very seriously the responsibility that comes with being a Christian.