My father's family still occasionally attended the Methodist church, and also the class meetings held in private houses. One evening my brother Robert and myself went to class meeting. The presiding elder was present. When it came my brother's turn, he spoke with great humility, yet with clearness, of the necessity for a complete fitness to meet our Saviour, when He should come in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. While my brother was speaking, a heavenly light glowed upon his usually pale countenance. He seemed to be carried in spirit above present surroundings, and spoke as if in the presence of Jesus. When I was called upon to speak, I arose, free in spirit, with a heart full of love and peace. I told the story of my great suffering under the conviction of sin, how I had at length received the blessing so long sought, an entire conformity to the will of God, and expressed my joy in the tidings of the soon coming of my Redeemer to take His children home.
In my simplicity I expected that my Methodist brethren and sisters would understand my feelings and rejoice with me. But I was disappointed; several sisters groaned and moved their chairs noisily, turning their backs upon me. I
could not think what had been said to offend them, and spoke very briefly, feeling the chilling influence of their disapprobation. When I had ceased speaking, Elder B. asked me if it would not be more pleasant to live a long life of usefulness, doing others good, than to have Jesus come speedily and destroy poor sinners. I replied that I longed for the coming of Jesus. Then sin would have an end, and we would enjoy sanctification forever, with no devil to tempt and lead us astray.
He then inquired if I would not rather die peacefully upon my bed than to pass through the pain of being changed, while living, from mortality to immortality. My answer was that I wished for Jesus to come and take His children; that I was willing to live or die as God willed, and could easily endure all the pain that could be borne in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye; that I desired the wheels of time to roll swiftly round, and bring the welcome day when these vile bodies should be changed, and fashioned like unto Christ's most glorious body. I also stated that when I lived nearest to the Lord, then I most earnestly longed for His appearing. Here some present seemed to be greatly displeased.
When the presiding elder addressed others in the class, he expressed great joy in anticipating the temporal millennium, when the earth should be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. He longed to see this glorious period ushered in. After the meeting closed, I was conscious of being treated with marked coldness by those who had formerly been kind and friendly to me. My brother and I returned home feeling sad that we should be so misunderstood by our brethren, and that the subject of the near coming of Jesus should awaken such bitter opposition in their breasts. Yet we were thankful that we could discern the precious light and rejoice in looking for the coming of the Lord.
Not long after this we again attended the class meeting.
We wanted an opportunity to speak of the precious love of God that animated our souls. I particularly wished to tell of the Lord's goodness and mercy to me. So great a change had been wrought in me that it seemed my duty to improve every opportunity of testifying to the love of my Saviour.
When my turn came to speak, I stated the evidences I enjoyed of Jesus' love, and that I looked forward with the glad expectation of meeting my Redeemer soon. The belief that Christ's coming was near had stirred my soul to seek more earnestly for the sanctification of the Spirit of God. Here the class leader interrupted me, saying: "You received sanctification through Methodism, through Methodism, sister, not through an erroneous theory." I felt compelled to confess the truth, that it was not through Methodism that my heart had received its new blessing, but by the stirring truths concerning the personal appearing of Jesus. Through them I had found peace, joy, and perfect love. Thus my testimony closed, the last that I was to bear in class with my Methodist brethren.
Robert then spoke in his meek way, yet in so clear and touching a manner that some wept and were much moved; but others coughed dissentingly and seemed quite uneasy. After leaving the class room, we again talked over our faith, and marveled that our Christian brethren and sisters could so ill endure to have a word spoken in reference to our Saviour's coming. We thought if they loved Jesus as they should, it would not be so great an annoyance to hear of His second advent, but, on the contrary, they would hail the news with joy.
We were convinced that we ought no longer to attend the class meeting. The hope of the glorious appearing of Christ filled our souls and would find expression when we rose to speak. This seemed to kindle the ire of those present against the two humble children who dared, in the face of opposition, to speak of the faith that had filled their hearts with
peace and happiness. It was evident that we could have no freedom in the class meeting; for our testimony provoked sneers and taunts that reached our ears at the close of the meeting, from brethren and sisters whom we had respected and loved.
The Adventists held meetings at this time in Beethoven Hall. My father, with his family, attended them quite regularly. The period of the second advent was thought to be in the year 1843. The time seemed so short in which souls could be saved that I resolved to do all that was in my power to lead sinners into the light of truth. But it seemed impossible for one so young, and in feeble health, to do much in the great work.
I had two sisters at home, Sarah, who was several years older, and my twin sister, Elizabeth. We talked the matter over among ourselves, and decided to earn what money we could, and spend it in buying books and tracts to be distributed gratuitously. This was the best we could do, and we did this little gladly. I could earn only twenty-five cents a day; but my dress was plain, nothing was spent for needless ornaments, for vain display appeared sinful in my eyes; so I had ever a little fund in store with which to purchase suitable books. These were placed in the hands of experienced persons to send abroad.
Every leaf of this printed matter seemed precious in my eyes, for it was as a messenger of light to the world, bidding them prepare for the great event near at hand. Day after day I sat in bed propped up with pillows, performing my allotted task with trembling fingers. How carefully would I lay aside the precious bits of silver taken in return, which were to be expended for reading matter to enlighten and arouse those who were in darkness. I had no temptation to spend my earnings for my own personal gratification; the salvation of souls was the burden of my mind, and my heart ached for those who flattered themselves that they were living
in security, while the message of warning was being given to the world.
One day I listened to a conversation between my mother and a sister, in reference to a discourse which they had recently heard, to the effect that the soul had not natural immortality. Some of the minister's proof texts were repeated. Among them I remember these impressed me very forcibly: "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." "The living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything." "Which in His times He shall show, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of Lords; who only hath immortality." "To them who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life." "Why," said my mother, after quoting the foregoing passage, "should they seek for what they already have?"
I listened to these new ideas with an intense and painful interest. When alone with my mother, I inquired if she really believed that the soul was not immortal. Her reply was that she feared we had been in error on that subject as well as upon some others.
"But, mother," said I, "do you really believe that the soul sleeps in the grave until the resurrection? Do you think that the Christian, when he dies, does not go immediately to heaven, nor the sinner to hell?"
She answered: "The Bible gives us no proof that there is an eternally burning hell. If there is such a place, it should be mentioned in the Sacred Book."
"Why, mother!" cried I, in astonishment, "this is strange talk for you! If you believe this strange theory, do not let any one know of it; for I fear that sinners would gather security from this belief, and never desire to seek the Lord."
"If this is sound Bible truth," she replied, "instead of preventing the salvation of sinners, it will be the means of winning them to Christ. If the love of God will not induce the rebel to yield, the terrors of an eternal hell will not drive him
to repentance. Besides, it does not seem a proper way to win souls to Jesus, by appealing to one of the lowest attributes of the mind, abject fear. The love of Jesus attracts; it will subdue the hardest heart."
It was some months after this conversation before I heard anything further concerning this doctrine; but during this time my mind had been much exercised upon the subject. When I heard it preached, I believed it to be the truth. From the time that light in regard to the sleep of the dead dawned upon my mind, the mystery that had enshrouded the resurrection vanished, and the great event itself assumed a new and sublime importance. My mind had often been disturbed by its efforts to reconcile the immediate reward or punishment of the dead with the undoubted fact of a future resurrection and judgment. If at death the soul entered upon eternal happiness or misery, where was the need of a resurrection of the poor moldering body?
But this new and beautiful faith taught me the reason why inspired writers had dwelt so much upon the resurrection of the body; it was because the entire being was slumbering in the grave. I could now clearly perceive the fallacy of our former position on this question. The confusion and uselessness of a final judgment, after the souls of the departed had already been judged once and appointed to their lot, was very plain to me now. I saw that the hope of the bereaved is in looking forward to the glorious day when the Life-giver shall break the fetters of the tomb, and the righteous dead shall arise and leave their prison house to be clothed with glorious immortal life.
Our family were all interested in the doctrine of the Lord's soon coming. My father had long been considered one of the pillars of the Methodist church where he lived, and the whole family had been active members; but we made no secret of our new belief, although we did not urge it upon others on inappropriate occasions, or manifest any unfriendliness
toward our church. However, the Methodist minister made us a special visit and took the occasion to inform us that our faith and Methodism could not agree. He did not inquire our reasons for believing as we did, nor make any reference to the Bible in order to convince us of our error; but he stated that we had adopted a new and strange belief that the Methodist Church could not accept.
My father replied that he must be mistaken in calling this a new and strange doctrine, that Christ Himself, in His teachings to His disciples, had preached His second advent. He had said: "In My Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." When He was taken up to heaven before their eyes and a cloud received Him out of their sight, as His faithful followers stood gazing after their vanishing Lord, "behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven."
"And," said my father, warming with his subject, "the inspired Paul wrote a letter to encourage his brethren in Thessalonica, saying: 'And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power; when He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe . . . in that day.' 'For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then
we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.'
"This is high authority for our faith. Jesus and His apostles dwell upon the event of the second advent with joy and triumph; and the holy angels proclaim that Christ, who ascended to heaven, shall come again. This is our offense, believing the word of Jesus and His disciples. This is a very old doctrine, and bears no taint of heresy."
The minister did not attempt to refer to a single text that would prove us in error, but excused himself on the plea of a want of time. He advised us to quietly withdraw from the church and avoid the publicity of a trial. We were aware that others of our brethren were meeting with similar treatment for a like cause, and we did not wish it understood that we were ashamed to acknowledge our faith, or were unable to sustain it by Scripture; so my parents insisted that they should be acquainted with the reasons for this request.
The only answer to this was an evasive declaration that we had walked contrary to the rules of the church, and the best course would be to voluntarily withdraw from it to save a trial. We answered that we preferred a regular trial, and demanded to know what sin was charged to us, as we were conscious of no wrong in looking for and loving the appearing of the Saviour.
Not long after, we were notified to be present at a meeting to be held in the vestry of the church. There were but few present. The influence of my father and his family was such that our opposers had no desire to present our case before a larger number of the congregation. The single charge preferred was that we had walked contrary to their rules. Upon our asking what rules we had violated, it was stated, after a little hesitation, that we had attended other meetings, and had neglected to meet regularly with our class. We stated
that a portion of the family had been in the country for some time past, that none who remained in the city had been absent from class meeting more than a few weeks, and they were morally compelled to remain away because the testimonies they bore met with such marked disapprobation. We also reminded them that certain persons who had not attended class meeting for a year were yet held in good standing.
It was asked if we would confess that we had departed from their rules, and if we would also agree to conform to them in the future. We answered that we dared not yield our faith or deny the sacred truth of God; that we could not forego the hope of the soon coming of our Redeemer; that after the manner which they called heresy we must continue to worship the Lord. My father in his defense received the blessing of God, and we all left the vestry with free spirits, happy in the consciousness of right and the approving smile of Jesus.
The next Sunday, at the commencement of the love feast, the presiding elder read off our names, seven in number, as discontinued from the church. He stated that we were not expelled on account of any wrong or immoral conduct, that we were of unblemished character and enviable reputation, but we had been guilty of walking contrary to the rules of the Methodist Church. He also declared that a door was now open, and all who were guilty of a similar breach of the rules would be dealt with in like manner.
There were many in the church who waited for the appearing of the Saviour, and this threat was made for the purpose of frightening them into subjection. In some cases this policy brought about the desired result, and the favor of God was sold for a place in the church. Many believed, but dared not confess their faith, lest they should be turned out of the synagogue. But some left soon afterward and joined the company of those who were looking for the Saviour.
At this time the words of the prophet were exceedingly
precious: "Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for My name's sake, said, Let the Lord be glorified: but He shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed."