The Sabbath


Light Bearers to the Remnant
Denominational History Textbook for Seventh-day Adventist College Classes
by R. W. Schwarz
Prepared by the Department of Education General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
Mountain View, California
Omaha, Nebraska
Oshawa, Ontario

11. Doctrinal Developments, 1849-1888, page 166

The Sabbath, page 170

Sin, as every good Adventist knew, was a breaking of God’s law often commandments. Adventists saw the fourth or Sabbath commandment as the one most flagrantly violated, even by professed Christians. In the Seventh-day Adventists’ view, a major part of their work was to call at- tention to the true Sabbath. In this way its observance would become a clear test of an individual’s complete loyalty to God during earth’s final hour.

It took time for pioneers like Bates and White to work out this complete

view of the central importance of the Sabbath. At first their Sabbath views did not differ greatly from those of the Seventh Day Baptists, whom they long continued to regard as more truly their brethren than were members of other Christian denominations. By connecting Revelation 11:19 with October 22, 1844, Bates concluded as early as 1847 that after 1844 new attention was to be called to the law of God and especially to the Sabbath commandment. This would provide a new test of the love and loyalty of God’s people. Gradually, particularly influenced by the writings of Bates, James White, and J. N. Andrews, Adventists came to see the Sabbath as the climax of the messages of the three angels of Revelation 14.9

During the late 1840s Sabbatarian Adventists had viewed the three angels’ messages as successive proclamations of specific truths: (1) the imminence of the second advent, (2) the apostasy of “nominal” Christian churches, and (3) the need to keep all of God’s commandments. They saw the first two messages as being completed by 1844; the third it was their specific duty to proclaim. Thus the Sabbath was logically the main burden of James White’s Present Truth. Yet believers must not lose the first messages; hence the Advent Review’s appearance to recall the impor- tance of their advent experience.

With the combining of these two early journals into the Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, we see the beginning of an understanding that the three messages were progressive and cumulative rather than successive. This position was more clearly defined, especially by Ellen White, during the 1850s. Yet primary attention continued to be accorded to the third message, which was believed in effect to include the preceding two. Thus “the third angel’s message soon became their greatest concern and the field of their most earnest study.”10

To these early Sabbatarian Adventists the final clause of the third mes- sage (Revelation 14:12) provided a dramatic portrayal of themselves. They were keeping all of God’s commandments and patiently awaiting Christ’s return. This last event, they now saw clearly, could not be pin- pointed to occur on a specific date; but rather it would follow the comple- tion of the investigative judgment.

A full proclamation of the third message required identification of “the beast,” “his image,” and “his mark.” These were all clearly pointed out as destined to feel God’s wrath and final destruction. By inference they could be linked to Babylon, from which the second angel had called God’s people. It also appeared logical that those receiving the beast’s mark were in sharp contrast to the group mentioned in Revelation 7 as being sealed with the “seal of the living God,” the group who would join Christ in glory after His return.

Both Bates and James White had early identified the true Sabbath as God’s seal. During the 1850s Uriah Smith demonstrated the fourth com- mandment’s similarity to an earthly monarch’s seal by pointing out that it not only identified the Ruler of the universe but also His office and dominion. While recognizing the Sabbath as God’s seal, James White rejected the idea that all Sabbath keepers had received this seal and were automatically sure of heaven. The Sabbath, White pointed out, was of no avail apart from a recognition of, and dependence upon, the merits of Christ’s atonement for one’s sins.11

Study during the early 1850s convinced}. N. Andrews that the beast the third angel was warning against was that mentioned in the first part of Revelation 13. This he, along with many early commentators, identified as the papacy. Andrews then went on to conclude that the “image” was corrupt Protestantism backed by civil power. To him the Sunday laws of some states demonstrated that the image was already in. the process of formation. It would be completed at a later date with a universal Sunday law.

The Mark of the Beast

As early as 1847 Joseph Bates had identified Sunday observance as a “mark of the beast.” James White agreed. He felt, however, that since the third angel’s message was a warning against receiving the beast’s mark, it had not yet been placed on men and women. This would come later, when Sunday observance was made obligatory by law. Then the issue of obedi- ence to God or the “beast” would be clearly drawn. At that time, according to Uriah Smith, all humanity would be divided into two classes: Sunday keepers and Sabbath keepers.12

From the start both Bates and White had seen the restoration of the true Sabbath as the work of “repairing the breach” in God’s law referred to in Isaiah 58:12, 13. Their love for God and their desire to please Him in restoring honor to the Sabbath led the early Seventh-day Adventists to be concerned over the proper time for beginning and ending this day of rest. Influenced by his nautical backgrounds, Captain Bates advocated the view that the Sabbath commenced at 6 p.m. Friday and ended at the same time on Saturday. The captain’s prominence as a Sabbath advocate led most of his associates to accept his views. Yet some, including James White, found Bates’s arguments not entirely satisfactory. In the mid-1850s J. N. Andrews was asked to study the matter thoroughly. His scriptural investigations led Andrews to argue persuasively for starting and ending the Sabbath at sunset. For a short time Bates and Ellen White clung to six p.m., but Ellen’s late-1855 vision endorsing the sunset position led to unanimity on this point. A decade later the Review office, as an aid to church members, produced the first Seventh-day Adventist calendar giv- ing Sabbath sunset times. 13

9. Damsteegt, pp. 188, 189, 241, 242; C. Coffman, “The Development of an Understanding of the Message of the Third Angel of Revelation 14:9-12 from 1844,” unpublished term paper, Andrews University (1972).

10. Damsteegt, pp. 165, 177-179, 189-195; Froom, Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, IV: 1043.

11. Damsteegt, pp. 143-146, 195, 196, 209-213.

12. Damsteegt, pp. 195-209.

13. J. Bates, “Time to Commence the Holy Sabbath,” Review, April 21, 1851, pp. 71, 72; S.DA. Encyclopedia, pp. 1251, 1252; Review, December 19, 1865, p. 40.

14. Damsteegt, pp. 216-220.


• At Washington, New Hampshire, in 1844 Rachel Oakes Preston, a Seventh-day Baptist, was instrumental in bringing the Sabbath truth to William and Cyrus Farnsworth as well as to Frederick Wheeler, the first Seventh-day Adventist minister.


Teachers Visit Washington, N.H.

Sabbath, July 21, was a high day for
the members of the first church at
Washington, N.H. This was the day
that Elder J. F. Knipschild, Jr., and
thirty-four of his church school teach-
ers from the Southern California Con-
ference visited the church. The church
service was very interesting owing to
the fact that the members had an op-
portunity to tell about their knowledge
of the church and its history.

In the teacher group and others who
were present, it was good to see the
number of descendants of our pioneer
workers. They were as follows:

Ruth Gilbert Miller
Miriam Gilbert Tymeson
Daughters of Elder F. C. Gilbert

Grace White Jacques
Granddaughter of Ellen G. White

Carroll E. Farnsworth
Waldo E. Farnsworth
Sons of Elgin Farnsworth

Lessie Farnsworth White-
Great-granddaughter of Rachel Oakes Preston

Ruth Nicola Nosworthy
Great-granddaughter of John Byington

Other workers who were present at
the meeting were:

Sidney W. Tymeson, Washington, D.C.
Russell Quackenbush, Washington, D.C.
M. D. Perrin, Lodi, California
Kenneth G. Hoover, Los Angeles, California

Public Relations

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