Joseph Bates,


Pioneer of the Pioneers


Among Seventh-day Adventists

     Probably the most interesting character among the founders of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination was Joseph Bates. He was born July 8, 1792, at Rochester, Massachusetts, not far from where the Pilgrims landed. His father had been a captain in the Revolutionary War, serving the full seven years of that long struggle so filled with hardships and suffering. One of the great pleasures of his later life was in greeting General Lafayette when he paid a visit to America in 1820. Captain Bates had been assigned to service under the personal command of the French general and was much pleased that the famous visitor remembered him.  

     While Joseph was a lad, his father moved to New Bedford, where he went into business. This was destined to be Joseph's home until he moved with his family to Michigan in 1858. The town of New Bedford was divided during the War of 1812, and the eastern part was renamed Fairhaven.  

     While yet a schoolboy, Joseph had an ardent desire to become a sailor. He had the natural characteristics of a pioneer and felt that he would be at the height of his glory if only he could sail on a voyage of discovery and see what was on the other side of the world. When he talked to his mother about his desire to go to sea, she tried to persuade him to choose some other occupation, and he was afraid to ask his father about it. Finally his parents decided to allow him to go on a short trip by water to Boston to cure him of his mad desire. This, however, only whetted his appetite to go out into the great unknown, and finally in the year 1807 his father secured a place for him as cabin boy on a new ship sailing for Europe.  

     On the return trip a shark followed the ship all day long. Sailors are a brave and hardy group, but they are superstitious. There is a saying that if a person is sick on board, a shark will follow for days in order to get the corpse when it is buried at sea. Sailors have a dread of being eaten by a shark. When a shark followed the boat, various stories about sharks swallowing men alive, biting them in two, or swallowing them in two mouthfuls were revived.  

     Toward evening the cabin boy ascended the main mast to see whether he could catch sight of a vessel. As he came down, when about fifty feet from the deck and sixty from the water, he missed his hand hold and fell. Fortunately he struck a rope which broke his fall and saved him from being dashed upon the deck, but it whirled him into the ocean.    

     As he came up he saw the ship, his only hope of rescue, passing rapidly beyond his reach. Hindered by his thick, heavy clothes, he was almost unable to swim, but fortunately his plight was immediately seen, and the captain and crew rushed toward the stern of the ship. The first officer hurled a coil of rope with all his might, and the floundering boy caught the end of it with one hand. "Hang on," came the shout, and they hauled him through the sea and set him safely on the deck. After it was ascertained that he was unhurt, some one asked where the shark was. Immediately the boy began to shake with fear as the crew had been doing while he was in the water. The lad had not thought about the shark while in the water. When they looked, there it was, placidly swimming along on the opposite side of the ship.                                                       

     Joseph Bates had many adventures as he sailed the seven seas. On one voyage from New York to Russia the ship collided with an iceberg. It was thought that all was lost, but by skill and good fortune the seamen were able to clear away the wreckage and save their ship. Refitting in Ireland, they sailed toward Russia, finally falling into the company of a British merchant fleet in the convoy of British battleships, and proceeding into the Baltic. After narrowly escaping shipwreck on the inhospitable shores of the Baltic, they were captured by Danish privateers, and their ship was confiscated, in accordance with Bonaparte's Berlin and Milan decrees, for having intercourse with the English. The sailors lost their ship, cargo, and wages, and having been stripped of everything but their clothes, were given their freedom. The youth shipped on a brig for Prussia and then on an American boat bound from Russia to Ireland. From Belfast, Joseph and a companion crossed the Irish Sea to Liverpool to seek employment on a ship bound for America.  

     At this time during the life-and-death struggle between France and Great Britain, the former nation under Napoleon's domination was striving to crush the island power, and the latter was endeavoring to keep her navy up to its highest efficiency. It was with the greatest difficulty that she was able to secure enough men to man her ships. The navy had therefore resorted to impressing men for sea service. Press gangs scoured the streets of London and other ports, impressing men in order that His Majesty's ships might not leave port undermanned.    

     While Joseph Bates and his American friend were in their boarding house one night, a "press gang" (an officer and twelve men) entered and inquired their nationality. They produced their American papers showing that they were citizens of the United States. Neither papers nor arguments availed, however. Seizing their captives, the gang dragged them to the rendezvous where they were confined until morning. In the morning they were hustled away like criminals to the gallows, to join the British navy. On arriving on board a recruiting ship, they were placed in the prison on a lower deck with about sixty others who claimed to be Americans and were impressed like themselves. This occurred on April 27, 1810.  

     On board this ship the prevailing feeling among the Americans was that they were illegally held, and hence any means they might use to escape would be justifiable. In a few days a large proportion of the officers and crew went on shore to bury one of their number, and while they were gone, the prisoners determined to break the iron bars and bolts in the porthole, jump overboard, and by swimming in the swift current, escape. The bars were broken, but when the prisoners were ready to jump overboard, the shore party returned and discovered the opening. As a punishment for this, one by one the men were taken out and whipped on the naked back. Before this long, cruel job was over, an order came to transfer them to a frigate that was going to sea. While at Plymouth before putting to sea, Joseph Bates and another young man from Massachusetts determined to escape even if they died in the attempt. They prepared a rope from a blanket, and when the soldiers and sailors were being relieved from their posts, at midnight, the two daring lads slid down their thirty-foot blanket rope and slipped into the water. Joseph was last, and the alarm was spread aboard the ship before he reached the water. Exposed to the fire of the sentinels, he soon slid into the water and swam to a hiding place. Unfortunately the boat crew sent out to search for them discovered its quarry and took the escaping sailors back, and they were placed in dose confinement for thirty-hours. Then the two friends were separated and sent to different ships. In a short time Joseph Bates found himself on the seventy-four-gun ship, the "Rodney," sailing for the French Mediterranean coast.  

     On the Mediterranean, once more the impressed sailor with two companions sought to escape in a native boat. They reached the shore, but after two days and nights of vain effort to find a way of escape, they ventured back to the ship and narrowly escaped a public whipping for desertion. Their returning was accepted as evidence that they were not attempting to desert. On the shore at Malaga the British and Spanish were locked in deadly combat with the French. At this point the "Rodney" engaged in the battle, firing its broadsides into the French lines. Joseph Bates and the other members of the crew went aloft and furled the sails while exposed to the enemy. Fortunately no shots were fired until the crew had done its work and reached the deck once more. Blockade duty kept the "Rodney" engaged along the French coast for months.  

     In warm weather the sailors' uniform consisted of white duck clothes and a straw hat. At nine in the morning all hands were mustered on deck and inspected. If a sailor's clothes were found soiled, he was placed on the black list and required to do all manner of scouring brass, or iron, and to perform the filthy work in addition to his regular duty. This deprived him of his rest and free time. This punishment was disgraceful and was dreaded by all. If sufficient changes of clothing had been allowed or time and a place provided to wash clothes, it would have been bearable. As it was, the sailors had only three suits and only one day in the week was allowed to clean them, about two hours before day light. At that time seven hundred men had to scrub their clothes on the upper deck. There was not half enough room, and consequently when the time had expired, often many had not had time to do their washing. That made no difference. The orders were to hang the clothes up and begin to "holy stone" the deck. Orders were strict that any one washing or drying clothes at other times should be punished. In order to keep clean, sometimes Joseph Bates washed his clothes early in the morning, contrary to order, put them on and allowed them to dry on him. 

     One day he washed his trousers and placed them behind a sail to dry, but it was furled suddenly, and the lieutenant saw his trousers. As a result he was found out, and the chief boatswain's mate was ordered to whip Bates with a rope. Feeling the injustice of the situation, Bates jumped overboard and placed himself on the ship's bobstays down near the water's edge and waited for his would-be flogger, who ordered him to come up. Bates invited him to come and get him if he dated, intending full well to grasp the fellow and drag him into the water if he came within reach. He remained there an hour, and then, to his great surprise, was allowed to go about his business. He learned the next morning that he was black-listed for about six months.

     At the end of three years' service, a ship was allowed to return to England, where the sailors were paid and allowed one day's liberty. Bates resolved to make his escape during this twenty-four hours, but just as the "Rodney" was departing for England, he was detailed, along with about forty-nine others, to report to a ship that had just come out from England for a three-year station. The way looked dark indeed. A few days after the new ship sailed to blockade Toulon, a. friend of Mr. Bates' father arrived, bearing papers proving his American citizenship and a demand for his release. His father, who was a man of some influence, had appealed to the President of the United States and the governor of Massachusetts and sent full proof of Joseph's citizenship. The admiral would not release him, however.  

     This was the first news Joseph had had from home in three years. All letters which he had written had been intercepted and destroyed and apparently any directed to him had suffered the same fate up to this time.  

     Afterward when the United States declared war on Great Britain, the Americans were allowed to become prisoners of, war. On one occasion the lieutenant of the ship tried to make Bates man a gun when the fleet anticipated action with the French. He refused, although all his American comrades acquiesced in the face of threats. Personal or moral cowardice was never a part of the make-up of Joseph Bates. After being kept as prisoners of war for eight months on the ships of the fleet, they were taken to England, where they were confined on a prison ship.  

     At one time when the commander refused to give the prisoners their regular rations, they struck, and when some of the officers came down, the prisoners seized them, threatening to kill them if any reprisal was made. The full ration of bread was forthcoming. 

     A little later, in an attempt to bring about an escape, with a common table knife fashioned into a crude saw, these determined men sawed a hole through three-inch planks in the side of the ship and then demolished a solid oak timber bit by bit. All this had to be done with as little noise as possible, since a soldier walked past a few feet above the spot. Forty men were engaged thirty or forty days at this. Finally the opportune moment for a prison break arrived. A company sang sailor and war songs to detract attention and drown the sound of escaping prisoners' paddling in the water. It brought joy to the hearts of the prisoners to hear the guards on each half hour as the bell was struck, cry out with a loud voice, "All is well." Eighteen escaped that night.  

     At daybreak the block was placed in the hole with the hope of concealing the aperture until the next evening, when more could escape. Another hole had been cut in such a way that when the count of the prisoners was taken eighteen of them crawled back through the hole and were counted again. This might have gone on for several days had not two men secured some liquor, and having taken enough to make them boisterous, insisted on being allowed to go out the hole first on the second night. In order to keep them quiet, they were allowed to do so. One, however, floundered about in the water and was caught, giving the whole thing away. Mr. Bates had helped make the hole and was deeply disappointed at so narrowly missing his liberty. The next day the king's carpenters came on board to repair the large hole, And. while they were at work some of the prisoners picked up some of their tools and began cutting out a hole on the other side of the ship equally satisfactory. The soldiers above attributed the hammering and sawing to the carpenters. The first night was so clear it was thought imprudent to venture out, and through negligence on the part of the committee the hole was discovered during the day.  Shortly after this the American prisoners were hustled off to the famous Dartmoor prison. The commander of the ship was said to have stated that he would rather take charge of six thousand French than six hundred Yankees. At Dartmoor the captives dug a subterranean passage under the inner and outer wall, and a large number were ready to escape when one of their number informed the guards. The prisoners were kept at this prison for weeks after the treaty of peace was signed. One day the commander of the soldier guard fired on the prisoners without justification, killing seven Americans and wounding sixty. This Dartmoor massacre occurred four months and a half after the treaty of peace was signed.  

     Just five years to a day from the time he was impressed, Bates was freed and started homeward. He had spent two and one-half years in the British service and two and one half as a prisoner of war. With what feelings of joy these emaciated prisoners in their ragged clothes and worn-out shoes started for their beloved land! 

     He arrived at home after an absence of six years three months. He was overjoyed at seeing his father, mother, brothers, and sisters, and among others, a certain young lady, Prudence Nye, the daughter of Captain Obed Nye, whose friendship he had cultivated before he left home.  

     During the next few years Mr. Bates continued to follow a seafaring life. As a result of his experience in the British navy he was able to command a position as first mate, or second in command of the ship. On February 15, 1818, Mr. Bates married Miss Nye and they lived in happy companionship until separated by death in their old age. 

     One of the most remarkable voyages on record was made in 1819 when a ship was nearly six months sailing from Gothenburg, Sweden, to New Bedford, a distance which should have been covered in less than sixty days. Mr. Bates was first mate. As the ship encountered contrary winds and storms, the crew threw overboard forty tons of iron and finally ran low on water and provisions. Friends were, of course, overjoyed to see the crew when they returned, for they had almost been given up as lost. This was the third time Joseph Bates had been home in ten years.  

     In 1821 Mr. Bates was promoted to the captaincy of a boat sailing to South America. His brother was the chief mate. On this first voyage as captain he became convinced of the error of a habit which he had followed for more than a year; namely, the drinking of ardent spirits. He had limited himself to one glass a day, taken at noon, and now he came to the point where he had a stronger desire for that one glass than for his food. While reflecting on the matter, he resolved never to drink another glass while he lived. He testified after forty-six years that he had never violated that resolution except to use alcohol for medicinal purposes. At the time of his resolution it was considered genteel to drink wine in company, and he continued this practice.  

     On the next voyage after his first step in reform, Mr. Bates, while at Lima, Peru, resolved never to drink another glass of wine. This extreme reform completely isolated him from those with whom his vocation caused him to associate. He was exposed to jeering remarks when he refused to drink with his associates. On one occasion Captain Bates was invited to a large dinner party at Lima in honor of the officers of American ships in the harbor on George Washington's birthday. On this occasion the gentleman giving the dinner singled Mr. Bates out before the whole assembly and challenged him to drink. Mr. Bates boldly flew his colors, however, and filled his glass with water.    

     At about the same time the doughty captain was convicted of the error of smoking, and resolved never to use tobacco in any form again. On this voyage to the Pacific coast of South America, Mr. Bates also tried hard to break himself of the habit of swearing. He studied his Bible. He later remarked, "I concluded that I was making myself a tolerably good Christian." Thus step by step this strong-willed man of high ideals attempted in his own strength to reform, and succeeded in becoming a dean man of irreproachable habits.  

     The next few years of Captain Bates' career were consumed in a seafaring life. Year in and year out he trod the quarter-deck, commanding his men and conquering wind and wave. A sailor's life of a century ago was filled with privations and hardships that are little realized in this modern age of fast steamer and airplane transportation. Captains, crew, and supercargoes were absent from home for months and even years. On his return from the above-mentioned voyage to the Pacific coast of South America in 1824, Mr. Bates saw for the first time his sixteen months-old daughter, who had been born during his two years' absence. After a few months stay at home, he was off again for South America.  

     As the years had come and gone, Captain Bates had won the esteem of his craft until on this voyage he was part owner of the ship and had the confidence of his partners in the venture to the extent that he was authorized to sell and purchase cargoes as often as it proved advantageous, and to use his own judgment in traveling to any part of the world which lie deemed might be profitable.  

     Captain Bates was thus supercargo as well as captain and part owner. And yet with all his pleasant prospects and good fortune, he was troubled. He had laid out a good-sized pile of books to take on his voyage. His wife felt there were more novels and romances than necessary, and accordingly placed a New Testament on top of the pile of books in the trunk. This was accompanied by an appropriate poem which arrested the captain's attention and made him in his lonely hours think more and more upon spiritual things. He wanted to be a Christian, but he was passing through a severe struggle. At this time a member of the crew became ill and grew worse day by day. This intensified his feelings. In his despair he thought of jumping overboard as a solution to his problem. Finally after intense mental suffering he decided to pray, but had no secret place. He was afraid his officers and men would learn that he was under conviction. Finally he contrived a secret place under the dining table in the captain's cabin. He tells us that the first time he ever bowed the knee in prayer it seemed to him his hair stood out straight. The death of the sick member of the crew brought the matter to a climax, for he, the captain, an unconverted man, had to take charge of the burial service. He was conscience smitten, and retired to his hole under the table to pour out his soul before God in an earnest plea for forgiveness. He signed a covenant with God pledging to serve and honor Him, and immediately he felt the approbation of God and enjoyed peace in his resignation to the will of his Master. From this time forth, he formed the habit of spending his time before breakfast in prayer, Bible reading, and meditation. 

Part 2

     On his return from this voyage, Captain Bates was baptized and joined his wife in her membership in the Christian Church. He was now impressed to work for others, and feeling that his temperance reform was the most important reform in his whole career, he determined to bring the same blessing to others. Accordingly he led out in forming what was to his knowledge, the first organization of this type in the world, the "Fairhaven Temperance Society." This was not the first, however. The majority of this society were former ship captains, and before long the temperance society as an institution became very popular. The Massachusetts State Temperance Society soon followed. 

     On his next voyage Captain Bates made his ship a reform institution. When the ship was well out to sea, he called the crew together and gave the members their instructions. The officers were to treat their men with kindness. There were to be no liquor and no intoxicating drinks on board except a small amount in the medicine chest to be dispensed by prescription of the captain. There was to be no swearing. This raised some objection, but the captain's word is law on a ship. He furthermore forbade the sailors to work or to go ashore on Sunday. He gave them Saturday afternoon off to mend and wash their clothes whether at sea or in port. He gathered the crew onto the deck in fair weather, or into the cabin in stormy times, and conducted daily worship. After he had announced the rules for the voyage, the captain knelt down and commended the boat and crew to God, who alone was able to guide and protect them on their way through unseen dangers in the days and months ahead. When Captain Bates returned from this voyage, nearly all of the crew desired to remain with the ship and sign up for another voyage with the same working policy.

     Two men were converted during the voyage, and many were led to think seriously of their state of being. Captain Bates' brother at this time took the ship on another cruise with the same policy, and our hero retired June 20, 1828, just twenty-one years from the time he had sailed on his first European voyage in the capacity of cabin boy.    

     Mr. Bates was an enterprising businessman, and God had prospered him during these long years of privation and danger, and he now gave up the sea at the age of thirty-six with a snug fortune for that period.  

     The next few years were given over to improving a little farm which his father had bequeathed to him. With the aid of an agricultural journal and some ready cash he wrought some visible changes in the place. He was a book farmer, however, and little income resulted from his efforts. He also gave much attention to church work and to numerous reform movements. He read regularly the various magazines and papers which a seafaring life had hindered him from enjoying. He took an active interest in Christian work, uniting with three brethren to build a church. He supported the benevolent work for sailors, was interested in distributing religious tracts, and ardently supported temperance work.  

     Each time he took up a new reform movement he lost some of his friends, until, as he said, there was a pretty thorough sifting of his friends. Yet he felt it his duty to take up the cause of the black bondsmen in his homeland. In the face of denunciation and opposition, Mr. Bates, with about forty of his neighbors and friends, formed an antislavery society. Although threatened and opposed, this group of men continued to work for the eradication of what they felt was a great evil.  

     During this period he became convinced of the harmful effects of tea and coffee, and he and his wife discarded these articles from their table. Never probably was Mr. Bates' idealism and reform more clearly brought out than in his projected manual training school. He built a building on his farm and planted mulberry trees for the purpose of furnishing food for silkworms. He planned to produce silk and to use, the students in the school to furnish the labor necessary to prepare it for market. By 1839 he had three mulberry orchards in thriving condition and was on the verge of setting his project into operation.

     One day during the autumn of that year while Mr. Bates was working in his orchard, a friend who was a minister in the Christian Church invited him to attend a lecture that evening on the Second Coming of Christ. He was astonished that any one could find any thing in the Bible concerning the time of Christ's second advent. When he and his wife heard this first presentation of the advent message, they were deeply interested. On the way home they rode in silence some distance, absorbed in this new and important subject. Finally the head of the house broke the silence with, "That is the truth!" His wife replied, "Oh, you are so sanguine always" He argued that the minister had made it plain to him, but assured her that they would hear some more on the subject. He then obtained a copy of Miller's "Lectures," which interested him more than ever in the subject. Mr. Bates apparently fully accepted the doctrine within the next few months, for in September of the next year, when a call was made for the first general conference of advent believers in all the world, Joseph Bates was one of the sixteen men who signed the call. Mr. Bates attended this meeting and thus became the earliest of all those who later became Seventh day Adventists, to embrace and participate in the advent movement. Evidently through Mr. Bates' solicitation, Mr. Miller began a series of meetings at Fairhaven in March, 1841. At that time he was so anxious to have others hear the message that he felt he was willing to give up his seat to allow his friends and neighbors to hear, in case the building was crowded. After listening to the first lecture, however, he thought he could not be denied the privilege of hearing the stirring message of the great reformer whose preaching was infinitely more interesting and inspiring than his written lectures. 

     In May, 1842, one of the most important general conferences of the 1844 movement took place at Boston. Joseph Bates' ability and standing in the advent movement was recognized in his election as chairman of the conference. At this outstanding meeting three items of great importance were taken up, and plans were adopted. Charles Fitch and Appollos Hale presented the proposal that prophetic charts be made to portray graphically the pictorial prophecies in connection with the advent movement. In introducing the plan, these brethren exhibited a chart made of cloth, which they had made by hand. The conference voted to have three hundred charts similar to this one lithographed for the use of the lecturers, who were becoming very numerous. The second proposal adopted was that of conducting camp meetings. Some of the brethren felt that it would be unwise to attempt to hold a camp meeting, since the advent believers were few in number and lacking in organization. These timid brethren were finally won over to the project, however, and it was planned to hold three such meetings during the season. When these got under way, their reception was so hearty and enthusiastic that thirty-one were held that year.  

     During the summer of 1842 Mr. Bates attended camp meetings at various places, apparently in the capacity of a layman, but obviously he was considered a leader, was a member of committees, and supported the various plans and arrangements. He tells us in his autobiography that following the camp meeting at Salem, Massachusetts, in September, 1842, he and a number of others who had attended the meeting were detained at the railroad station by a wreck farther along the line. This group, Mr. Bates tells us, began to sing advent hymns and became so animated and deeply engaged that the people from the city came out in crowds and listened with rapt attention until the coming of the train changed the scene. Shortly afterward a minister held meetings in the city, and thousands flocked to hear him.  

     Owing to the fact that some of the members of the church where Mr. Bates worshipped, opposed the advent message, he was finally constrained to withdraw from their fellowship.  At that time he sold his share in the $9,000 church which he and three other men had built, and three quarters of which they still owned.  

     In 1843 he disposed of his home and the greater part of his real estate, paid all debts in order that he might owe no man anything, and prepared to go into the field and give the last warning message. He had a burden to go down into the slave-holding States and present the truths so important for all. Thus far the lecturers who went into the South had been driven out by the people who were hostile to the Adventist lecturers, many of whom were ardent abolitionists. Mr. Bates was warned that if he went South he would be killed because of his abolitionist principles. In spite of the danger, he determined to go into Maryland and begin work. He and another worker who accompanied him met with instant success in their meeting. Large numbers of people came out to hear the message, and soon the interest was excellent. The success naturally aroused opposition, and finally a Methodist class leader arose during a meeting and began talking about riding the two messengers on a rail. At this the old sea captain arose in his dignity and with calm control, as though walking the deck of his ship in a stormy sea, replied: "We are all ready for that, sir. If you will put a saddle on it, we would rather ride than walk."  

     This quick-witted reply left the man nonplused, and then Mr. Bates continued: "You must not think that we have come six hundred miles through the ice and snow, at our own expense, to give you the midnight cry, without first sitting down and counting the cost. And now, if the Lord has no more for us to do, we had as well lie at the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay as anywhere else until the Lord comes. But if He has any more work for us to do, you can't touch us!"  

     This experience was reported in the Baltimore Patriot. The editor, after relating the story of the threat of riding on a rail and Mr. Bates' reply, remarked: "The crush of matter and the wreck of worlds would be nothing to such men." The two continued for some weeks to present their message to the people in Maryland with good interest, and then returned north. They next visited the islands along the Massachusetts coast. Many of the ten thousand inhabitants of these islands professed to believe in the Second Coming of Christ.  

     Along with the other believers Mr. Bates experienced the first disappointment in the spring of 1844. He with others, while waiting for further light, relied upon the scripture,

"If it [the vision] tarry, wait for it." All the early part of that summer the advent people waited.  

     In August Mr. Bates attended a camp meeting held at Exeter, New Hampshire. While he was on the way, the idea was presented to him that he would find new light there. When he came upon the grounds, he passed from tent to tent to learn if there was any new light. The "true midnight cry" message was given at this meeting; namely, that Christ would appear October 22, 1844. The people scattered, carrying with them the thought that within sixty days Christ would come. As the people on foot, on trains, and in stages, wagons, and buggies, dispersed into the various States, a mighty cry went up throughout New England: "Behold, the Bridegroom comes!" Christ, our blessed Lord, is coming on the tenth day of the seventh month! Get ready! Get ready!' Mr. Bates participated in the stirring activities incident to the tenth day of the seventh month movement. With tens of thousands of believers at that time he was deeply disappointed.   

     In those dark days of disappointment in the fall of 1844 and during the months following, Mr. Bates, with the others, sought diligently for light. Occasionally before the great disappointment, individuals had brought up the matter of observing the seventh day as the Sabbath. In September, 1844, just previous to the great disappointment, there was quite a stir about this matter. At two different times the editor of the Midnight Cry took notice of this matter in the following words: "Many persons have their minds deeply exercised respecting a supposed obligation to observe the seventh day." One week later the editor made this comment: "We last week found ourselves brought to this conclusion: There is no particular portion of time which Christians are required by law to set apart as holy time. If this conclusion is incorrect, then we think the seventh day is the only day for the observance of which there is any law."  

          At Washington, New Hampshire, Mrs. Rachel Preston, a Seventh Day Baptist who came to visit in the community, persuaded the members of the Adventist company of the necessity of keeping Sabbath while she joined them in looking for the Second Coming of Christ. This occurred about the time of the great disappointment. Shortly thereafter, two men, J. B. Cook and T. M. Preble, wrote in favor of the Sabbath, calling the attention of the advent believers to the need of observing the day.  

     In the spring of 1845, Mr. Bates visited the company of Adventists in Washington, New Hampshire, who were keeping the Sabbath. Through their influence and the reading of the article by T. M. Preble, he was led to the observance of the Sabbath. He began to keep the Sabbath in March, 1845, and was thus the first of the outstanding pioneer leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist people to accept the Sabbath. In fact, for over a year he stood alone in teaching this doctrine which later became one of the cardinal beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Once Mr. Bates was convinced of a reform, he immediately took hold of it in earnest and began to proclaim it. This is well demonstrated in connection with his acceptance of the Sabbath. When he started across the bridge at Fairhaven on his return from the journey to the Washington Sabbath keepers, he met a neighbor, a Mr. Hall, who called out: "Hello, Brother Bates! what's the news?"    

     "The seventh day is the Sabbath," earnestly replied the old sea captain. As has been stated, he began at once to proclaim this new-found truth, and became the true father of the Sabbath among the people who were to become the Seventh-day Adventists. In August, 1846, he published the first Sabbath tract ever put out by Adventists. 

     Frederick Wheeler of Washington, New Hampshire, also began to keep the Sabbath in March, 1845, but he apparently was not active in proclaiming it, except in his own community.

      The story of the production of this tract is a classic among Adventist pioneer stories and is given here as J. N. Loughborough says Captain Bates gave it to him in 1855. 

     "He said that while in prayer before God, he decided to write the book, and felt assured that the way would open to publish it. He therefore seated himself at his desk, with Bible and concordance, to begin his work. In the course of an hour, Mrs. Bates came into the room and said, 'Joseph, I haven't flour enough to make out the baking;' and at the same time mentioned some other little articles that she needed. 'How much flour do you lack?' asked Captain Bates. 'About four pounds,' was her reply. 'Very well,' he replied. After she left the room, he went to a store near by, purchased the four pounds of flour and the other articles, brought them home, and again seated himself at his writing desk. Presently Mrs. Bates came in and saw the articles on the table and exclaimed, 'Where did this flour come from?' 'Why,' said the Captain, 'isn't there enough? You said you wanted four pounds.' 'Yes', said she, 'but where did you get it?' 'I bought it,' said he; 'is not that the amount you wanted to complete the baking?' 'Yes,' continued Mrs. Bates, 'but have you, Captain Bates, a man who has sailed vessels out of New Bedford, to all parts of the world, been out and bought four pounds of flour?' 'Yes, was not that the amount you needed to complete the baking?' 'Yes,' said Mrs. Bates, 'but have you bought four pounds (1) of flour?' 

Part 3  

     "Another trial soon followed. When Captain Bates left the sea, he sold out his interest in a ship for $11,000, but now he had spent his all to advance the cause of truth. Up to this date Mrs. Bates did not know his true financial condition, but he felt that he must now acquaint her with it; so he calmly said, 'Wife, I spent for those articles the last money I have on earth.' With bitter sobs Mrs. Bates inquired, 'What are we going to do?' The Captain arose, and with all the dignity of a captain directing his vessel, said, 'I am going to write a book; I am going to circulate it, and spread this Sabbath truth before the world.' 'Well,' said Mrs. Bates, through blinding tears, 'what are we going to live on?' 'The Lord is going to open the way,' was Captain Bates' smiling reply. 'Yes,' said Mrs. Bates, 'the Lord is going to open the way, that's what you always say,' and bursting into tears, she left the room.  

     "After Captain Bates had continued his work for half an hour, the impression came to him to go to the post office, as there was a letter there for him. He went, and sure enough there was a letter. In those days the postage on letters was five cents, and prepayment was optional. The writer of this letter had for some reason failed to pay the postage. And here again Captain Bates was humbled, as he was obliged to tell the postmaster, Mr. Drew, with whom he was well acquainted, that he could not pay the postage, as he had no money; but he said, 'Will you let me see where it is from?' 'Take it along,' said the postmaster, 'and pay some other time.' 'No,' said the Captain, 'I will not take the letter out of the office until the postage is paid.' While he had the letter in his hand, he said, 'I am of the opinion that there is money in this letter,' and turning to the postmaster, he asked, 'Will you please open it? If there is money in it, you can take the postage out; if not, I will not read it.' The postmaster complied with his request, and lo! it contained a ten-dollar bill. He found, by reading, that the letter was from a person who said the Lord so impressed his mind that Mr. Bates was in need of money that he hastened it to him. In the haste he probably forgot to pay the postage.  

     "After paying the postage he went to a provision store, bought a barrel of flour for $4, besides potatoes, sugar, and other necessary articles. When giving orders where they were to be delivered, he said, 'Probably the woman will say they don't belong there, but don't you pay any attention to what she says; unload the goods on the front porch.' He then went to the printing office and made arrangements for publishing one thousand copies of a tract of about one hundred pages, with the understanding that as the copy was furnished the printers were to put it in type as rapidly as possible, sending proofs to him. He was to pay for the work as fast as he received the money, and the books were not to be taken from the office until the bills were all paid. Captain Bates knew well there was no money due him, but he felt it his duty to write this book, believing that the Lord would move on the hearts to send the money when it was needed. After purchasing paper, pens, etc., thus giving time for the household supplies to go in advance of him, he went to the head of the street leading to his house. On seeing that the articles were there, he went into the house by the back entrance, and seated himself again at his desk. Mrs. Bates came in and said excitedly, 'Joseph, just look out on the front porch. Where did that stuff come from? A dray man came here and would unload it.' . . . 'Well,' said Captain Bates, 'I guess it's all right.' 'But,' said Mrs. Bates, 'where did it come from?' 'Well,' said the Captain, 'the Lord sent it.' 'Yes,' said Mrs. Bates, 'the Lord sent it! that's what you always say.' He then handed the letter to his wife, saying, 'Read this, and you will know where it came from.' She read it, and again retired for another cry, but it was of a different character from the first; and on returning she humbly asked his pardon for her lack of faith."  

     As men struggled during the dark days of the great disappointment, new light came to them on the question of the cleansing of the sanctuary. Hiram Edson, of Port Gibson, New York, was praying in a cornfield, he said, when the Spirit of God came upon him in such a powerful manner that he was almost smitten to the ground. At that moment he was indelibly impressed that the sanctuary to be cleansed is in heaven. He told O. R. L. Crosier this, and the latter, after a careful study of the subject with Mr. Edson and others, wrote an article presenting this light.  

     As a result of study and investigation a little group of believers were confirmed in their conclusion that the 2300-year period had come to a close October 22, 1844, and that the sanctuary to be cleansed was in heaven. At that time Christ, our high priest, having completed His ministrations in the holy place, entered the "holy of holies" to cleanse the sanctuary. There He would remain until the second advent.1 This light proved to be one of the foundation pillars of the doctrines developed by the pioneers. It constitutes a characteristic belief of Seventh day Adventists.  

     At first James White and Ellen Harmon, the other members of the trio of original pioneers of the third angel's message, did not accept the Sabbath, but in 1846 they did so, and from that time on presented a united front in building up the advent body. During the next few years Joseph Bates traveled among the scattered companies of advent believers, presenting these newly discovered principles the Sabbath and the true significance of the sanctuary.  

     In carrying out this work Mr. Bates went everywhere searching out those who would hear him. He was away from home almost continuously, stopping a day or two here, a day there, visiting homes, holding meetings, cheering the discouraged, and bringing new light to the despairing.  

     Captain Bates was a man of great faith. Although he had little money, he was in the habit of saying, "The Lord will provide." At one time he felt that he should go into New Hampshire and present the message there.

     Having no means, he was on the point of starting his journey on foot when the money came unexpectedly from a young woman who had hired herself out at a dollar a week in order to secure money to help the cause of Christ. After working only two weeks, she felt so impressed that Mr. Bates needed money that she went to her employer and drew five dollars in advance. This came just in time to enable Mr. Bates to make the trip by train.  

     At another time when he felt the Lord wanted him to go to a certain place, so strong was his faith that he actually took his place in the chair car without money or a ticket. Before the train started, a stranger came and handed him five dollars to assist him in his work. These experiences came to be common in the life of this man of God who hung onto the arm of God and received help just when it was most needed. 

     During the last half of the decade of the forties he not only visited New England and New York, but was the first man to take the Seventh-day Adventist message into the West. As early as the summer of 1849 he made a tour through Michigan, hunting out isolated members and secluded companies of those who had a part in the 1844 movement, laying deep the foundation for the sturdy structure which was to be reared there in the near future. He raised up a church at Jackson. The liberality of Mr. D. R. Palmer and others of this company was a great source of added strength to the cause, not only in that early period, but in later years.  

      In August, 1851, Joseph Bates wrote to James White: "Within two years the true Sabbath keepers have increased fourfold in Vermont and New Hampshire. Within one year we believe they have more than doubled their number, and they are daily increasing. . . . In these two States alone conferences have been held within a few months, where one year ago not one believer in the message could be found."  

     During these years when the third angel's message was in the embryonic stage, Mr. Bates went through some of the most grueling hardships and privations that can be imagined. Sometimes he was away from home six to nine months at a time, and when on shorter journeys, he stayed at home only a few days and then left directly to strengthen the brethren and to carry the message to those unacquainted with it.

     On January 1, 1852, he wrote from Montreal: "Have been working our way to the west, along the south shore of Lake Ontario, and wherever we have learned that there were scattered sheep in the back settlements north of us, we have waded through the deep snow from two to forty miles to find them, and give the present truth; so that in five weeks we have traveled hundreds of miles, and gained on the direct road westward one hundred eighty miles. . . . The first twenty days of our journey we were much tried with the deep snow, and tedious cold weather, and with but few exceptions, cold and impenetrable hearts."  

     Joseph Bates was a prodigious worker, never sparing himself. After working hard all day he would walk eight miles to talk with those who had been in the 1844 movement and for whom he carried a great burden. He not only preached publicly from the Scriptures in the pulpit, but after the meetings the believers gathered in a home, got better acquainted, received the news of the progress of the work, and learned more about the church paper, the literature, and other matters of interest.  

     In the summer of 1852 Joseph Bates again visited the church at Jackson, Michigan, and while there was impressed to go farther west. He was further impressed to get off the train at Battle Creek. Here he went to the postmaster and inquired who was the most honest man in town. The postmaster directed him to the home of David Hewitt, a Presbyterian. Walking to the home of this man, he said, "I have been directed to you as the most honest man in Battle Creek; if this is so, I have some important truth to present to you." The reply was, "Come in; I will hear it." As the result of that visit, Mr. Hewitt kept the next Sabbath, and became the first Seventh-day Adventist in Battle Creek. A few weeks later, in August, after Mr. Bates had returned from Wisconsin, he had the joy of baptizing this convert, at Jackson, Michigan, together with others who were to become active supporters of the work, such as Henry Lyon, M. E. Cornell, and J. P. Kellogg. (See Review and Herald, Sept. 2, 1852)    

     It was during this journey to Wisconsin, in July, 1852, at Albion, that people came as far as seventy miles, some in wagons and some afoot. When these people gathered from their isolated cabins in the wild forest or out on the lonely prairie, they longed for spiritual communion and companionship and were closely drawn to the kindly man who had come so many miles from the East to minister to them. A writer in Michigan in 1852, wrote to the Review concerning Mr. Bates' visit: "The Lord has greatly blessed the labors of Brother Bates in this region, and there was much weeping on his departure; but his appointments were sent on, and he left full of faith and "the Holy Ghost.""

     In January, 1853, Joseph Bates visited William Miller's family at Low Hampton, New York, was kindly received, and gave a lecture, although so far as is known none of the family accepted the third angel's message at that time. A trip taken by Mr. Bates in the winter of 1853-54, as reconstructed from his letters, gives a fair sample of the itineraries followed by the old pioneer as he moved about here and there in the Western wilds, searching out honest hearts. Leaving home about December 1, 1853, he conducted a conference in New Ipswich, New Hampshire, then met an appointment at Springfield, Massachusetts. He spent several days at Rochester and Fredonia, New York. Then by a thirty six hour journey in the stage and over the railroad he arrived at Jackson, Michigan, December 27. After journeying through Michigan, he went into the northwest corner of Illinois, working from January 17 to February 2. Here he preached in district schoolhouses, distributed books, and acted as a subscription agent for the Review and the Youth's Instructor.  

     He worked in Illinois until March 29, and then labored in Michigan until about the middle of April, when he went into Ohio to hold a conference. He then worked his way slowly back toward the East, arriving at his home at Fairhaven, May 22, after an absence of five months and twenty-two days. In all that trip he never slept in a Pullman car and probably never stayed at a hotel. He never knew where he would stay the next night. Long, cold rides in stagecoaches or open buggies, or cold tramps through snow, ice, and sleet, were the rule, and at nights he was entertained in the crowded little homes of the new country in which he was working.  

     His letters tell the story of a trip beginning when he left Fairhaven in time to attend the general conference held in Battle Creek, November 16, 1855, when he was sixty-two years of age. He was chosen chairman of that meeting, and shortly after it was over, he started west toward Chicago on the train. Suddenly the cars were thrown from the track by a broken rail. The passengers were jostled about, and the fire was jolted from the stove by the impact. Mr. Bates helped extinguish the fire, and the passengers, although not seriously injured, were obliged to sit in the woods for five or six hours. To him it was merely an incident in a busy life, and he thanked God for His protection and went on his way.  

     About this time two of the leading workers in Wisconsin left the main body of believers and began to publish a paper in opposition to the Review and Herald. Mr. Bates went into the State, spent the rest of the winter there holding meetings and bringing order out of chaos. An extended journey through Wisconsin in the winter, facing severe climatic conditions and meeting brethren whose minds had been poisoned by enemies within the fold, was anything but inviting. He made a circuit of the State, traveled slowly toward the Illinois line, and began work there at the end of March. From there he entered Iowa. While on the road, he said, he fell in with some families moving north to Minnesota. In writing of this he said: "We sent some of our publications there for distribution. Lord set home the truth!" Probably this was the first introduction of Seventh-day Adventism into Minnesota.  

     It is interesting to note that Joseph Bates was the great path breaker. He was the first leading worker in Michigan, having entered that State in 1849; and while all the world was flocking to California in the gold rush, the veteran worker was digging out nuggets, the honest in heart, among the forests of that State. Again in 1852 he was the first of the original pioneers to enter Wisconsin. He was also among the earliest workers to visit Iowa.  

     In 1856 he returned from Wisconsin to attend the general conference held at Battle Creek in May. He served as chairman of this assembly, and evidently was considered the chief speaker, for he spoke at both the morning and afternoon meetings on Sabbath. 

     After the general conference he turned back eastward, arriving at his home in Fairhaven, June 6, 1856. He was soon in the field once more, however, with the Michigan tent during the tent season of that year.  

     Mr. Bates had his first experience in the tent work in New England in the summer of 1855 when he and a companion held twelve tent meetings during the season. These efforts were naturally of short duration, and after a few meetings the tent was furled and some of the brethren hauled it to the next place, or a collection was taken up to hire it hauled. The biographer, in studying the characteristics of Mr. Bates, would judge that he was not well fitted by nature for tent work as it came into use later. Perhaps the spirit of the sea rover was too strong in his veins. At any rate he seemed ever intent upon traveling here and there. stopping only a day or two at a place. Gradually a feeling arose and was expressed by James White that where the work was intended for non-Adventists, a tent should remain in a town until the new believers were indoctrinated, as the mere inciting of curiosity would avail little.  

     In accordance with this principle Joseph Bates and M. E. Cornell began a tent effort at Hillsdale, Michigan. It continued four weeks. At the close of this meeting there were about seventy Sabbath keepers and thirty-six subscribers to the Review where there had not been a Sabbath keeper within ten miles when the meetings began.  

     Mr. Bates continued to work in Michigan during the autumn and winter of 1856 and 1857. The resolute spirit of the old sailor is shown in his baptism of seven persons at Monterey, Michigan, in the dead of winter. With the mercury thirty degrees below zero some of the brethren cut the ice, which was three feet thick, and the old veteran, sixty five years of age, baptized the group.  

     Again he attended the general conference at Battle Creek, where he was once more chairman. During the summer he was employed in holding tent efforts in Michigan.  

     He arrived home in October, 1857, after an absence of what appears on the records to have been a year and a half. He stayed only a few weeks, however, and arrived in Battle Creek in time to serve as chairman of the general conference held November 9. 1857. He stayed in the field during the winter and returned to his home April 15, after nearly six months absence.  

     The story of his next few years might be told if to the phrase "in journeying oft" there is added, "with brief intermissions at home, and in continuous service as chairman of the general conference sessions."    

     When it was decided to organize the Adventist Church, the Michigan Conference was the first organization formed. On the occasion of this step, Joseph Bates was chosen chairman, or what would be called our first local conference president. He was repeatedly asked to bear administrative responsibility until the time of the organization of the general conference as a permanent administrative organization. At that time, perhaps because of his age and decreased activity, he retired from executive work, and his reports in the Review appeared less frequently thereafter. He was retired with an income sufficient to enable him to live in comfort. During his later years he made his home with his daughter at Monterey, Michigan, among the brethren for whom he had labored in the early days of the message in Michigan.  

     Mr. Bates was the first leader to adopt health reform. At a time when some of the ministering brethren had pork in their cellars, or were receiving hams for their services as gospel ministers, Joseph Bates had ceased eating flesh foods, butter, grease, cheese, pies, and rich cakes. It speaks well for Mr. Bates that although he firmly believed in this reform, he did not press his ideas upon his brethren, but in the interests of harmony allowed every man to follow his own conviction in the matter.  

     In another matter Mr. Bates disagreed with some of his brethren for a time. He had argued that the Sabbath began at six o'clock in the evening, and that the actual meaning of the word "even" is "the close of the twelfth hour of the day." Without special study, James White and most of the early believers accepted this view. But some from the Seventh Day Baptists, who had hitherto kept the Sabbath from sundown to sundown, accepted the faith, and maintained their practice. Others questioned, and there was a division among the believers. At a conference in November, 1855, the question was considered for an entire Sabbath day. By request, J. N. Andrews had made a thorough study of the subject, and prepared a paper in which he showed that the twelve hours of the day in Christ's time were not sixty-minute hours, as it was many years later that this system of time was adopted. He further showed the weight of Scripture evidence to be in favor of the sundown time. As a result of this presentation, most of the brethren favored the adoption of this plan, and although he had fought the sundown time earnestly, Mr. Bates, with true Christian courtesy, yielded to the will of the majority. This union of faith and practice was strengthened by the fact that during a prayer service, on the day following this discussion, Mrs. White was shown in vision that they had reached the correct conclusion.  

     For an estimate of the character of Joseph Bates, probably we could do no better than to quote from his fellow laborer, James White, who joined him in 1846 when Mr. Bates was fifty-four years of age. Although Mr. Bates was twenty-nine years older than his young comrade, the two joined forces, and, like father and son, constructed the framework of the movement which was to become the Seventh day Adventist denomination. They were aided in this work by James White's companion, Ellen G. White. To this trio Joseph Bates brought maturity, good health, natural leadership, and prestige. He had successfully commanded all manner of men for two decades. He had been one of the recognized outstanding leaders of the 1844 movement. Naturally his two younger associates looked to him as a senior leader, and he was, in effect, the first general conference executive in that he was chairman of the general conferences regularly. If there was ever any trace of friction between him and his colleagues, there is not one hint of it in the records. Of Joseph Bates, James White says:    

     "Elder Bates was a true gentleman. We might suppose that a man of his natural firmness and independence, after twenty-one years of seafaring life, and commander of rough sailors a large portion of that time, would be exacting and overbearing in his efforts to reform others. True, he would speak what he regarded truth with great freedom and boldness; but after he had set forth principles, and urged the importance of obedience, he was willing to leave his hearers to decide for themselves. . . . Elder Bates was in the hearts of his people. Those who knew him longest and best, prized him most." 

     He died in his eightieth year on March 19, 1872, at Battle Creek. Although in his last hours he suffered pain such as few men pass through, during it all he showed in a marked way the superiority of a faith in Christ over bodily suffering and the certainty of death in the near future. He was buried by the side of his wife at Monterey, Michigan.

1938 END, FOME 105-151