THE BLESSED HOPE
The life and death of Annie Smith
Several unnamed persons
Although most of Annie Smith's short life was spent in a valley of shadows, she focused on the bright hope of Jesus Christ's return. The plan opens at the Smith home in the small village of West Wilton, New Hampshire. The date is Friday, July 27, 185, the day after Annie's death, and we find Rebekah Smith alone, grieving over the loss of her daughter. A surprise visit from an Adventist friend in the nearby hamlet of New Ipswich brings comfort to Rebekah, and allows her to reminisce about the events of Annie's life.
Rebekah's reminiscences take us back in time to a public meeting in Boston exactly four years previously, when unusual circumstances brought Annie into an encounter with Elder Joseph Bates. As a result of the encounter, Annie's faith in the Advent was renewed. Scene 2 takes us back to that meeting.
As Rebekah's reminiscing continues, we find ourselves again in the Smith home on a November day in 1854, when a tired Annie comes home from a three-year stint as copy editor for The Review and Herald. Her mother and two of her brothers are eager to hear about her work experiences, her disappointments, and to share pride in her literary accomplishments. But the dreaded consumption (tuberculosis) has claimed the lives of several of her friends, and the family is suddenly faced with the reality that Annie herself has contracted the disease.
In the final Sabbath meeting scene, two days after Annie's death, Leonard Hastings brings comfort to the bereaved family and points all of us to the "blessed hope" which was the source of Annie's spiritual strength.
Born, March 16, 1828, in the village of West Wilton, New Hampshire, Annie Smith was a Baptist until she and her family joined the Advent awakening of 1844. Following the disappointment of that year, she turned her attention to teaching, oil painting, and French. She also wrote poetry for literary magazines. Her younger brother, Uriah, also turned away after the disappointment. Their godly mother, Rebekah Smith, was concerned about her children and prayed for them daily. When Elder Joseph Bates planned to hold some meetings in the nearby city of Boston during July 1851, Rebekah encouraged Annie to attend. She decided to go simply to please her mother. The night before the meeting, Annie dreamed that she arrived late to a meeting and found the last available seat just before the speaker got up to preach about the Sanctuary and 2300 Days. Bates had a similar dream in which he saw a young lady arrive late for his meeting and take the only remaining seat. Impressed by this providential event, Annie accepted the Sabbath and the Advent message.
Soon afterwards, Elder James White invited Annie to assist in the Adventist publishing venture. Despite a problem with her eyesight, Annie accepted the employment offer and later was virtually the assistant editor. For the next three years her poems appeared regularly in The Review and Herald and Youth's Instructor and about twenty-five of them were sung as hymns.
While working with the Whit at Saratoga Springs and later Rochester, New York, Annie fell in love with the young John Andrews. It was a deep blow to her when Andrews decided to marry Angeline Stephens. In November 1854, Annie returned home sick with tuberculosis. At home she finished a long poem, "Home Here and Home in Heaven," which occupied her for four months. Her brother Uriah, who had also joined the editorial staff of The Review and Herald, came home for a visit to assist Annie in preparing this and her other poems for publication. Since the peony was her favorite flower, Uriah sketched and engraved one for the title page of her book. Annie believed that when her book of poems was done, she would either die or get well. Anxious to see the proofs of the book, and hearing that help was needed at the office, she urged her brother to return, which he did on July 17. When he left with the manuscript, she said "I am ready now to die," and lived less than ten days after that.
List of Sources:
Durand, Eugene F. Yours in the Blessed Hope, Uriah Smith. Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1980.
Graybill, Ron. "The Life and Love of Annie Smith." Adventist Heritage, Vol. 2, No. 1, Summer 1975, pp. 14-23.
Smith, Annie. Home Here, and Home in Heaven: With Other Poems. Rochester, NY: Advent Review Office, 1855.
Smith, Rebekah. Poems, with a Sketch of the Life and Experience of Annie R. Smith. Manchester, NH : John B. Clark, 1871.
White, Ellen G. Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 2. Battle Creek, MI: James White, 1860.
Joseph Bates A former sea captain and Millerite preacher who accepted the Sabbath truth. In 1851 he conducted some meetings in Boston, which Annie Smith attended; during these meetings she decided to join the Advent cause.
Leonard Hastings A farmer and Sabbath-keeper who lived at New Ipswich, New Hampshire, not many miles from the Smiths at West Wilton. It is possible that Hastings conducted Annie Smiths funeral service in 1855.
Henry Nichols Member of an early Sabbath-keeping family at Dorchester, near Boston. There is no direct evidence that he or his family were present at Joseph Bates' Boston meetings in the summer of 1851.
Annie Smith Daughter of Samuel and Rebekah, born in 1828. Originally a Millerite, Annie turned away from the faith but became an Adventist believer and Sabbath-keeper after attending meetings in Boston conducted by Joseph Bates. She worked for James White in the publishing work for three years, and during that time she wrote many poems and hymns. She died of tuberculosis in 1855.
John Smith Oldest of the four Smith children – two years older than Annie.
Rebekah Smith Mother of four children – John, Annie, Samuel, and Uriah. The family lived in the village of West Wilton in southern New Hampshire. Rebekah's husband, Samuel Smith, Senior died in 1852, three years before Annie herself died at home in1855. Rebekah's account is a primary source of information concerning Annie's sickness and death.
Samuel Smith Another of the Smith children – two years younger than Annie, and two years older than Uriah.
Uriah Smith Youngest of the four Smith children, and four years younger than Annie. Uriah was invited to join the staff of The Review and Herald Office shortly after Annie commenced work there. When the office was moved to Battle Creek in 1855, Uriah became editor of The Review and Herald.
THE BLESSED HOPE
SCENE 1. Living room of Rebekah Smith's home in West Wilton, New Hampshire. The date is July 27, 1855. Mrs. Smith is alone in the room, sitting at a table, writing. She speaks aloud as she writes.
(An organ in the background plays softly "How Far From Home" [SDAH 439] to introduce this scene.)
Rebekah: Tuesday night was a solemn and eventful night. I stayed with Annie alone throughout the night. Neither of us slept. She was very happy, and talked a lot with me. She felt bad to have me kept up on her account. She said, I am here now, your dying girl. I think this is the last night, and you must be sure to rest when I am gone. Thank you for taking care of me. In heaven there will be no sorrow or suffering. We shall all be free from pain there, and we shall live forever. Yes, and I can smile through all my sufferings.
Wednesday, the 25th, a deathly coldness was upon her. In the afternoon she became more free from pain and distress. In the evening she said, I shall not want anyone to sit up; you can lie on the lounge. At one oclock in the morning I called her brother Samuel. She talked with him awhile, then asked him to moisten her face with a damp cloth, and said she felt sleepy. She was indeed going into her last sleep. Samuel soon afterward came to me and said, I believe Annie is dying. I spoke to her. She took no notice, breathed a few times, and died apparently as easy as any one going into a natural sleep. Her sufferings were over. She was gone. It was four oclock in the morning, July 26, 1855.
(Rebekah lays down her pen, and closes her diary. From the table she picks up a framed portrait of Annie, and studies it silently for a few moments, then speaks while looking at the picture.)
Annie, you were such a sweet and courageous girl. You asked us not to weep for you, but instead to be happy in the blessed hope. The blessed hope . . . the hope you expressed so often in your hymns and poems.
(She begins humming and singing softly the words of one of Annies hymns [SDAH 439].)
Then weep no more, since we shall meet,
Where weary footsteps never roam.
Our trials past, our joys complete,
Safe in our Fathers home.
(There is a knock at the door. She goes to the door, and welcomes Leonard Hastings into her living room.)
Rebekah: Brother Hastings, do come in. How nice of you to come at this time.
Hastings: Sister Smith, I just heard this morning of Annies death early on Thursday morning? so I decided to ride over here this afternoon. Sister Smith, I know what a time of trial and suffering this has been for her, and for you.
Rebekah: Yes, she suffered a great deal, and yet she was happy right to the end.
Hastings: Sister, we can praise the Lord that your daughter died in the blessed hope of the Advent.
Rebekah: Yes, that has been a great comfort to all of us.
Hastings: So many of Annies poems were expressions of her deep and abiding faith in the Lord.
Rebekah: You know, Brother Hastings, it was Annies wish to finish her book of poems and have it ready for publication before she died.
Hastings: We she able to do that?
Rebekah: Yes, her wish was granted. Uriah came home for a few days and helped her copy and arrange her poetry for publication. He will also arrange to have the printing done. Annie decided to entitle it, Home Here, and Home in Heaven. Would you like to see it?
Hastings: Certainly. (They stand and move slowly toward the exit during the remainder of conversation.) Her gift of poetry has been a blessing to so many. She must have contributed at least forty poems to the Review and the Youths Instructor during the past four years since she took hold of the message.
Rebekah: Is it four years already? It was because of Elder Bates ministry that Annie gave her heart to the Lord. I remember the day Elder Bates came to visit me, and I was so distressed because both Annie and Uriah were seeking their future out in the world. And he prayed right here with me, that the Lord would speak to their young hearts.
Hastings: Yes, Sister Smith, and those prayers were answered, werent they?
Rebekah: In a remarkable way, Brother Hastings. Elder Bates was conducting some Sabbath meetings in Boston, and I urged Annie to go. And she did go. But, you know, a strange thing happened at that meeting yes, a very strange thing!
(Rebekah and Hastings exit. The organ begins playing an old Advent hymn, as Scene 2 commences.)
SCENE 2. Interior of a home in Boston. The date is Sabbath, July 2, 1851.
(Elder Bates and Henry Nichols enter and stand conversing together as several other people enter and find seats.)
Bates: You know, Brother Nichols, I had a peculiar dream last night. I cant help thinking about it as we see the folk arriving for our meeting.
Nichols: What was the dream about, Elder Bates?
Bates: Well, I was here at this meeting preparing to preach. We were singing an opening hymn and just as we finished the song a young lady walked into the room. She looked embarrassed at arriving late. She found the only vacant seat in the room and began to listen very attentively to my preaching.
Nichols: Can you remember what she looked like?
Bates: Yes. She was small and sweet, and wore a whit shawl over her shoulders. Thats all I can remember right now.
Nichols: I dont see anyone like that at our meeting tonight. Well, I think we should begin, Elder Bates. Are you ready?
(Bates nods approval and sits. The organ stops playing, and Nichols open the meeting.)
Brothers and Sisters, it is truly Gods will that all of us are here today. This is the first of two meetings that Brother Bates will conduct here in Boston. God willing, many precious souls will be won for the Kingdom of God.
There are several Advent believers who are needy at this time. We invite you to assist these dear brothers and sisters as we take up an offering. We ask you to give as the Lord has blessed you. Elder Bates, would you offer a prayer before the offering is taken?
Bates: Shall we bow our heads? Heavenly Father, we ask for Thy presence in our meeting here today. Bless each soul, and may the offering that we give be blessed in Thy service. We ask this in Jesus Name. Amen.
(The offering is collected.)
Nichols: To begin our meeting today let us sing together that wonderful Advent hymn, Watch Ye Saints. [SDAH 598] We will stand to sing.
(The audience may be cued to join in the hymn. During the last verse, Annie enters from the rear of the auditorium and walks onto the stage, looks around for a seat, and eventually finds one near the front. At the conclusion of the hymn, Rebekahs voice is heard, off-stage.)
Rebekahs Voice: The Lord surely worked in a mysterious way, Brother Hastings. It happened just the way that Brother Bates dreamed. At the last moment he changed the topic of her sermon, and preached instead about the 2300 days, the cleansing of the sanctuary, and the Sabbath. When the meeting ended, another strange thing happened.
(The meeting concluded, the organ begins playing very softly. Elder Bates greets believers as they leave. Annie Smith steps forward to meet him.)
Bates: Hello. I believe this is Sister Smiths daughter, from West Wilton?
Annie: (Surprised) Why, yes, Elder Bates! But how did you know me?
Bates: Well, its true that Ive not met you before, but your face looks familiar. You see, I dreamed about you last night.
Annie: (More surprised) You dreamed about me?
Bates: Thats right. I dreamed that after the meeting started tonight, you came in and found the only available seat. And I Dreamed that at the last moment I changed my topic and preached as I did on the sanctuary truth.
Annie: (Excited) And last night I dreamed about you, Elder Bates!
Bates: You did?
Annie: Yes. I dreamed that I arrived last at the meeting, and you were preaching a sermon about hte sanctuary and the 2300 days, with your chart. And I sat in the only chair that I could find. In my dream, you were explaining about the meaning of the heavenly sanctuary. And I dreamed that what you said was the truth. Everything has happened exactly the way I dreamed it!
Bates: Well, that is certainly very interesting! Sister Smith, I believe the Lord had a guiding hand in all this.
Annie: Perhaps so. It wasnt that I had planned to arrive late for the meeting, Elder Bates. I left in plenty of time, but I missed the turn, and by the time I discovered my mistake, the meeting had already begun.
Bates: Sister Annie, what made you decide to come to the meeting tonight?
Annie: Well it was only to please my mother really. She wanted me to come.
Bates: Your dear mother has been praying very much that you would attend here tonight. She loves you and wants to see you in the truth.
Annie: I know you are right, Elder Bates. Ive wandered a long way from God during these last few years, but I guess mothers prayers have followed me.
Bates: You used to be a believer in the Advent Hope, Sister Annie?
Annie: Thats right. All of my family were Millerites, and we were excited about the Lord coming back in 1844. They were distressing and yet wonderful times. But then came the terrible disappointment, and I just felt . . . angry and disillusioned. So I turned my back on spiritual things, and went out to get an education in the world.
Bates: Your mother told me of your literary success. I think she said you had several poems published.
Annie: Yes, I have been most fortunate to have had my poetry published in two important literary magazines. I feel that I have a future in writing.
Bates: I am sure that the Lord could use your talents, Sister Smith. Perhaps you could write to inspire faith in the advent message.
Annie: Yes, perhaps so.
Bates: They are going to be holding meetings here each Sabbath. Would you like to join them?
Annie: Yes. I would like to come.
(Both leave the room as the organ continues playing for a few moments.)
Rebekahs Voice: What rejoicing there was in the weeks after that, as Annie and later Uriah joined the Advent faith. I remember that soon after attending those meetings, Annie wrote her first poem with a spiritual theme. She called it Fear Not, Little Flock, and sent it to Elder James White at the Review, with a letter telling of her newfound faith. Elder White printed both the letter and the poem in the paper.
Soon after that, Annie changed the poem a little, and Elder James White included it in the hymnal he published the very next year. This was the first of about twenty-five hymns that Annie wrote during the past four years.
(At this point, a singing group comes on the platform and sings the Annie Smith hymn: Long Upon the Mountains [SDAH 447])
Elder James Whit was so impressed with Annies poetic talent that he wrote to ask if she would come and help with the editing of The Review and Herald. At first she declined because of trouble she was having with her eyes, but later she agreed, and spent three years working as copy editor for the paper. Sometimes she had the sole responsibility of preparing the Review, when the Whit were away on preaching tours. She continued to write hymns and poetry during her work at the Review office.
But Annies work came to a sudden end when she returned home to West Wilton in November of 1854.
SCENE 3. Living room of Rebekah Smiths home in West Wilton. The date is November 7, 1854. Rebekah is sitting in the room, reading, as three members of her family Annie, John, and Samuel enter. John and Samuel are carrying Annies suitcases. They place them at one side of the room. Annie has just arrived home from Rochester. Annie looks weary.
Rebekah: (Rises to greet Annie) Annie, my dear! Its wonderful to have you home again.
Annie: Mother! Oh, it is good to be home again! (Sits wearily. Rebekah sits also.)
John: Well just place your cases here for now. (John and Samuel set cases down, and sit also.)
Annie: Thank you, John and Samuel.
Rebekah: Was the train crowded? Were you able to get a seat all the way?
Annie: Yes, it was quite crowded. And it was miserably cold when we started out this morning from Rochester. I wished that I hadnt packed my winter shawl.
Rebekah: Im sorry that Uriah could not have accompanied you home.
Annie: Yes, that would have been nice, but we have all been so busy at the office. But he sends his love to you all, and hopes to come home for a while in the spring.
John: So, have you been enjoying your work? We think of you every time The Review and Herald arrives.
Annie: Well, the work is very tedious, really. My job is to check every word that is printed in the Review. I am concerned about the spelling, the grammar, the mode of expression. I darent make a single mistake!
Rebekah: Dear me! Is Elder Whit such a hard master?
Annie: Oh, hes very good to me really. And his wife Ellen is such a kind, thoughtful person. But they are both so very busy. They are often away on preaching trips, answering correspondence, driving themselves very hard. And so we are often working under pressure to meet deadlines. And Elder White is a perfectionist when it comes to printing the papers!
Samuel: Ill be you never make any mistakes. (Laughter)
John: Well, not more than one to a page! (More laugher)
Annie: The truth lies somewhere between those two extermes. But you may be sure that whatever mistakes there are, Elder Whit will find them. But he has a sense of humor, Im glad to say.
Rebekah: John and Samuel, why dont you take Annies cases up to her room? And open her window a little, for some fresh air. (They get up and leave with cases.) Annie dear, I think you look very tired and drawn. Im afraid you have been working too hard, and not taking time for proper rest and sleep.
Annie: Youre probably right, mother. But after my disappointment with John, I had to keep busy. Otherwise I should have been a useless, heart-broken girl.
Rebekah: I know that John Andrews is a bright and handsome young man, and doubtless you both shared a good deal in common. But, perhaps the Lord has someone else in mind for you, my dear.
Annie: No, mother, I dont believe so! I had a such deep love for Joh, and I felt so terribly hurt when he turned away from me. I twas the deepest trial I have ever had to face. I wept for many days . . . and nights.
Rebekah: My poor dear girl! How I wish I had been nearer to you.
Annie: Oh, there were many kind folk in Rochester. Sister Whit was so very kind, and seemed to understand what I was going through.
(Enter John and Samuel again. John is carrying a scrapbook with him.)
Annie: What is that you have, John?
John: I have been keeping a scrapbook fo your poetry, Annie. I believe I have everything that you have ever had published.
Samuel: It seems that half of the poems are written for peoples funerals.
Annie: Well, unfortunately it seems that way sometimes, Im sure. And perhaps the Lord has placed a special burden on me to write for such sad occasions. There have been several bereavements of our fellow workers at the press. Elder Whites brother, Nathaniel, as in Rochester for several months, until he died with consumption, and of course I wrote a poem for the family. Then another of the workers, Luman Masten just a young man also died of consumption. Later Sister Whites brother, Robert Harmon, passed away in Gorham, Maine, and I wrote an epitaph for him. Oh, and now Elder Whites sister, Anna, is lying at deaths door. She has consumption too.
Rebekah: Mya the Lord come soon, and put an end to all this suffering and death.
John: One of your poems I have here is entitled The Blessed Hope. [SDAH 441] It is one I like very much. It seems to me you had particular people in mind when you wrote it.
Annie: Yes, John, thats right. Perhaps you have guessed who they are?
John: Well, let me try. Here is the first verse:
I saw one weary, sad and torn,
With eager steps press on the way,
Who long the hallowed cross had borne,
Still looking for the promised day;
While many a line of grief and care,
Upon his brow was furrowed there;
I asked what buoyed his spirits up,
O this, he said, the blessed hope.
My guess is that you are writing about Elder Joseph Bates.
Annie: You guessed right.
Samuel: I dont think anyone has more furrows in his brow than Elder Bates.
Annie: What about the second verse?
John: (Continues reading.)
And one I saw, with sword and shield,
Who boldly braved the worlds cold frown,
And fought, unyielding, on the field,
To win an everlasting crown.
Though worn with toil, oppressed by foes,
No murmur from his heart arose . . .
That must surely be Elder James White. No one has fought so hard for the truth and met so much opposition.
Annie: Youre right again, John.
John: But its the third verse that I cant get.
And there was one who left behind
The cherished friends of early years,
And honor, pleasure, wealth resigned,
To tread the path bedewed with tears.
Through trials deep and conflicts sore,
Yet still a smile of joy he wore . . .
Now who can that refer to?
Annie: (A little agitated) Im sure you would understand, if I told you.
John: What do you mean by that, sister?
Annie: Its my special secret, really. Perhaps you should read it by changing the gender in that verse.
Samuel: What does changing the gender mean?
John: Listen, Samuel.
And there was one who left behind,
The cherished friends of early years,
And honor, pleasure, wealth resigned,
To tread the path bedewed with tears.
Through trials deep and conflicts sore,
Yet still a smile of joy she wore.
I asked what buoyed her spirits up,
O this, she said, the blessed hope.
Who could that be but my own dear sister, Annie?