Archive for the ‘Charles Fitch’ Category

An Update on AHL Work at Covenant Forum

April 6, 2009

Recent Additions:

E. A. Beavon

The Bicycle Craze

Charles Fitch

We have been impressed with the amount of early documentation of Fitch’s life and work.

Pioneer Story – Charles Fitch

January 8, 2009

Among the younger men who supported William Miller in his preaching of the advent of Christ was Charles Fitch. Born in December, 1805, he was only thirty-three years old when he first heard Miller in 1838. After his education at Brown University he had been a pastor much beloved in the several churches of Connecticut and Massachusetts where he had served. It was while he was pastor of the Marlboro Chapel, a Congregational church, that he heard Miller lecture and later sent for copies of his sermon.

Although Fitch did not accept the teaching concerning the second coming of Christ at that time, the preaching of Miller fired his zeal, and he left Boston, traveling widely, conducting evangelistic meetings in the churches of New England, New York, and even as far west as Lake Erie. He eventually returned to Haverhill, Massachusetts, his former home. In some unaccountable way he felt that his power of witnessing for Christ had deserted him. He fell into a period of deep discouragement.

It seemed the doors of the churches now were shut to him. Where should he go to tell the message of God’s love and desire to make His people perfect in His love? He had fasted and prayed and wept before the Lord, but no way was open for him to continue. Then, as he sat there one cold December day, there came a knock at his door. When he opened it, there stepped within a stranger who said: “Brother Fitch, you do not know me, but I have known of you for four years, since you first inquired about the message of the Lord’s coming. For in that year I also heard this faith, and believed it, and began to preach it. My name is Josiah Litch, of Philadelphia.”

Then they talked together, and as Fitch told his new friend of his perplexities, Litch said to him, “Brother, you need the truth of Jesus’ coming with the message you have been preaching.”

Charles Fitch turned again to his Bible and studied the subject of Jesus’ coming. And again he was convinced, and now he put his whole soul into it. He expected, as did others who accepted this faith, that he would lose his friends, some of whom in his ministry of love had become very dear to him. And, of course, there were some who turned against him, but there were others who rejoiced with him in the faith of Jesus’ coming.

Now Charles Fitch found the ears of the people open to listen, and with Miller and Himes and Litch and others, he went forth to proclaim the soon coming of Jesus. It took him far away from his home most of the time. Traveling by foot and horse and stage and steamboat was hard; there was no certain pay; but there was gladness in his heart and voice as he went out to give the message.

Very soon, as he was lecturing on the visions of Daniel and John, there came to his mind a word from the prophet Habakkuk, “Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it,” and he sat down and devised what are believed to be the first prophetic charts used by the Advent preachers of those days.

In the latter part of 1842 Charles Fitch started for the West to proclaim the message. In those times the United States was not so large as now, and the territory beyond the Appalachian Mountains and around the Great Lakes was very little settled. There were as yet no railroads out there, but the rivers and the Great Lakes were beginning to be used by steamboats; and two canals in the State of Ohio, which connected Lake Erie with the Ohio River, had helped greatly to develop the country. Cincinnati, then the largest city, had about forty thousand people, and Cleveland, on Lake Erie, had about six thousand.

Fitch went to Cleveland, where he soon moved his family, and where he lived for the next two years. From this place he, with Elon Galusha and other ministers, went out over the State to the new and growing cities and the little towns, where the country people would come in to listen to the message. Akron and Marietta, the oldest towns in the State, were cities where the message was gladly received, and indeed all through this Western country the preachers of the Advent message found a people more ready to believe in Jesus’ coming than those in the older country of the East. These new settlers were deeply interested in education also, and they established schools such as Oberlin College, near Cleveland, where the students and some of the teachers largely supported themselves on the farm and in other industries, and where a true Christian education was in every way encouraged. At Oberlin there was great interest in the message Charles Fitch and his helpers brought, and many there turned to look for the coming of their Lord.

In Cleveland, Fitch found a Congregational church who were willing to let him use their building, fronting the public square, and from this church for perhaps a year the people of Cleveland in greater and greater numbers heard the message proclaimed. Finally the company of believers built a larger church, in which the work was continued. One who was then a young man living in Cleveland has told of hearing Charles Fitch preach. “He was a very winsome man,” he said, “slender, but well built, and with a smile that would disarm an enemy and which truly spoke the kindliness of his nature. He was a very powerful speaker, and under his preaching many nights I have seen hundreds, deeply convicted, rise and go forward to ask for prayers and salvation in the kingdom. There was a solemnity about the meetings that none, even of the most flippant, could resist or change. Fitch always had command of his audiences.

“One night, I remember, when at the close of his sermon he called for repentant sinners to come forward, a great lubberly fellow, whom I well knew, with others rose in the gallery and started to come down the stairs that led to the pulpit. Part way down he stumbled and almost fell the rest of the way. A laugh started among the lighter-minded in the audience, but Mr. Fitch called out, ‘Never mind, brother! It’s better to stumble into heaven than to walk straight into hell.’ And the laughing died as quickly as it had started.”

In the summer of 1844 William Miller, to whom Charles Fitch was very dear, went on a tour of the cities and country where Fitch had been working. He came to Cleveland and preached there, and then went on to other cities and towns as far as Cincinnati. And everywhere he found the people in great crowds eager to hear.

Not only did Fitch preach, but he published in Cleveland a paper called the Second Advent of Christ, which for two years carried far out through the northwestern country the message that he could not everywhere carry in person. A great love of the truth of Jesus’ near coming was thus planted in the hearts of the people; and, as will be noted, in later years the fruit of this sowing was reaped in the rapid progress of the message.

Charles Fitch, however, did not have long thereafter to labor. There appears a most interesting statement about his death and his coming reward in Early Writings, on page 17, 1945 edition. The cause of his death, in October, 1844, was a fever that was brought on in the following way. He had a large number of new believers who desired baptism, and others who had not yet made up their minds. The company who were ready went with him to the lake, and there were baptized. A cold wind was blowing as he, with them, started in his wet garments for home, and he was much chilled. But he had not gone far when he met another company from among those whom he had left behind, who now came desiring baptism. He went back with them to the lake and also immersed them. Then as they started home there came a third company whose conviction of sin and of Jesus’ salvation and of His soon coming had brought them to the decision. At their request he turned again and baptized them also. The next day, though ill from the effects of his chill, he rode in the cold wind some miles to another appointment. This proved too hard on him, and he was stricken down, and after an illness of several weeks he died. His last clear words, in answer to some who asked him of his faith, were, “I believe in the promises of God.”

Among all those in America who preached and taught the message of Jesus’ coming, perhaps none was so widely and deeply loved as Charles Fitch. He had a depth of love that reached high to his Savior and low and far to his fellow men. Always courageous, hopeful, and helpful, he interpreted the love of God not only in word but in deed, and he bound firmly in friendship and perfect love thousands to whom he ministered and hundreds with whom he labored. He did a great work, and he left a mark of his labors both upon the country where he preached and upon the methods of his successors. He may well be remembered as the beloved apostle of the Advent message.

Source: Pioneer Stories compiled by Theodore Lucas, 1956.