Looking back upon nearly threescore years in the ministry, I can see a good many things for serious reflection. As a background for my experience in this cause, I had the advantage of being brought up in a Christian home. My father was a deacon in the Baptist Church for forty years. Be it said to the credit of my godly parents that their nine children were all converted, and one by one they gave their hearts to the Lord around the family altar.
At the age of thirteen or fourteen, in the Baptist Sunday school, I repeated the ten commandments without missing a word, and was given a reward of a merit card. On the following Sunday, seated on the arm of my mother's chair, shortly before her death, I very earnestly asked, "Mother, is Sunday the first day of the week?"
"Yes, my son," she replied. "Why do you ask?"
Then I said, "I would like to know why we keep the first day of the week as the Sabbath, when the fourth commandment says 'the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God.'" She then told me that the seventh day was the Jewish Sabbath, the day the Jews kept, and that when Jesus came, He changed the Sabbath from the seventh to the first day of the week. She said that we now keep Sunday in commemoration of the resurrection of Christ. Not seeing the fallacy of such reasoning, and feeling sure that what my godly mother said was right beyond any doubt, I accepted her explanation, and the Sabbath question never crossed my mind until seven years later.
I embraced the truth of the third angel's message, and was persuaded to enter the canvassing work. After about a year, I entered upon the work of the ministry. Then my observation of the work of the threefold message really began. A few men of some education and former training had responded to the call of the ministry. J. H. Waggoner, J. N. Andrews, Uriah Smith, and some others who might be mentioned, were educated men, who, by writing and speaking, placed their mold upon the work. But as a rule our preachers came from the farm, the workshop, and other common walks of life. Somehow the Lord wrought through these humble workers, and a firm foundation was laid which has stood the storm and stress of later years.
Our educational system had to be molded from the ground up. It began with the church school. One of the tiniest efforts in the direction of church schools was made many years ago, in Washington, New Hampshire, where the message had its beginning. Feeling the need of a school in which the children could be taught the Bible, the early believers started a little school in the cooper shop of Cyrus Farnsworth. In derision, one of the neighbors painted a sign and put it up at a corner of the road : "3/4 Mile to Cooper Shop University." But God blessed that little school. Since that small beginning, the world has been dotted with our church schools, academies, and colleges, and our educational system is now topped by the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary.
Our provision for advanced training first began with the establishment of Battle Creek College in 1874. Without means, without buildings, without teachers, without anything in a material way, S. N. Haskell and G. I. Butler were sent out to raise money for building Battle Creek College. Professor G. H. Bell had conducted school in Battle Creek for two years before this. That dear man of God has been sleeping in the grave for many years, but his work lives on in the many institutions of learning now being operated.
Our medical work also had a humble beginning. I was a patient at the Battle Creek Sanitarium a good many years ago, when Dr. J. H. Kellogg was in the prime of young manhood. He did a great and grand work in building up the medical work. His name went around the world. I remember hearing his name spoken of away out in Africa as the "famous Dr. J. H. Kellogg, of Battle Creek, Michigan." I am glad he is still living and still active at the age of ninety-one years. I wish, of course, that he would once more take his place among us, and share in the glorious triumphs of the work which he so nobly helped to begin.
Our facilities have grown with the needs. The cause now demands men of talent and education to meet higher criticisms which could not be met by the humbler men whom God blessed in former days. In those earlier times men went forth, hung up their charts in private homes, schoolhouses, tents, and other places, and preached the great fundamental truths of the message. God blessed their labors. I am led to wonder sometimes whether some of the simplicity of their work may not now be lacking, and whether our preaching has not drifted away from the great lines of prophecy which have made us a people. God is now calling, not for less education and training, but for more zeal and earnestness.