In "Counsels to Teachers," page 343, we read: "Would it not be well for us to observe holidays unto God, when we could revive in our minds the memory of His dealing with us ?" One holiday which might well be established and celebrated by Adventists is October 22, a day greatly to be remembered among us. It is astonishing how few of our people have any consciousness of its significance.
That is the day in 1844 when believers in the imminent second advent looked for the Lord to come and because He did not come then, the day has commonly been called the Day of Disappointment. There was bitter disappointment on earth, but in heaven there was joy, with sympathy and love for the sorrowing disciples on earth. That was the day when our High Priest, Jesus, entered the most holy place in the sanctuary in heaven, there to begin His finishing work of redemption which should open the way for His glorious appearing, the end of sin, the ushering in of the everlasting kingdom of righteousness. Should we not joyously celebrate it. as the Day of His Appointment?
At Madison College we determined last year to give due recognition to October 22, to make it a holiday unto God. The social committee began early to lay plans for the celebration. The religious motif was of course prominent in this October holiday. In Israel all holidays were religious ; in Jesus all life was religious. Since October 22 last year fell upon Thursday, and since Saturday night is our usual recreation night, we decided to make a three-day celebration, which we called "The Festival of the Blessed Hope." The accompanying programs will show specifically how the themes were developed, the names of the participants being omitted because of space limitations.
Thursday night, October 22, the first program was held in the large assembly hall of Demonstration Building, which houses our department of education. This hall is our nearest approach to a gymnasium, being used for marches and some receptions, as well as curricular activities. Building upon Jesus' illustration of the end of the world as the harvest, we made a display of agricultural products in decorative pattern, the corn shocks coming in very appropriately in one of our tableaux—Hiram Edson in the cornfield the morning after the disappointment. The program of song, story, and illustration was devoted primarily to the history and significance of the '44 movement. It was greatly enjoyed by the students, institutional workers, teachers, and visitors, whose common testimony was that it instructed and edified as well as pleased. The night bore torrential rains, but the large hall was filled.
The next night, Sabbath eve, church history or development was brought up to date, the meeting being held in the school chapel, where the organ lent its deep voice to the reverence that the time and the subject invited. In this program, as in all the others, students were the chief participants. They showed diligence in research and ability, amounting sometimes to near genius in their preparation and presentation of material. The choir, with constituent organizations, bore a very large part in the programs, and song in volume marked the festival. "The World-wide Sweep of the Advent Message" began with a meditation upon Jesus' parable of the mustard seed, proceeded with some history of early mission enterprise, and ended with surveys of present denominational strength by departments.
The church service upon the Sabbath day was fitted into the Festival of the Blessed Hope, the dean of the school delivering a sermon upon "The Coming of the Lord Draweth Nigh," a refreshing and inspiring presentation of the great motivating element in our movement.
Camp Meeting Scene on Saturday Night
Then came Saturday night and the most festive part of the three-day program, when we staged a camp meeting scene simulating that of the '44 movement. Our recreation area, recently set aside, and known as South Park, is only partly developed. Our Christian recreation class spent all its scanty leisure in clearing and preparing the spot selected for an amphitheater; and by the time it was needed, sufficient progress had been made to render it usable. The weather at this season was very uncertain, and we had all along kept in our minds a reservation as to the possibility of holding an outdoor meeting. But conditions were perfect, and the affair was held under a starlit sky.
A procession, on foot and in wagons, formed in front of the chapel at seven, and "went to camp meeting" in the style of horse-and-buggy days, over the half mile to South Park. Roaring fires greeted them—two large ones for warmth, near the speakers' stand, two smaller fires built on earth-filled boxes atop posts, served as lights, being constantly tended and fed with cedar twigs and wood. A cottage organ was transported to the scene, and the old-time songs, on which the student body had practiced at two chapel periods, were sung with spirit and, we believe, some understanding. In the midst of the program of songs, a student gave an excellent fifteen-minute lecture on "The Vision of Daniel Two," by aid of a replica of "the chart of '43" kindly furnished by L. E. Froom. Before each hymn a choir member gave an annotation explanatory of its origin or associations. Here are two sample annotations:
"Bishop E. H. Bickersteth, the author of this hymn, was the son of that Edward Bickersteth who was a leader in the '44 movement in England. While this hymn was written as late as 1872, its theme and spirit show the influence of the advent motive in the life of the boy under the teaching of his father and 'other advent heralds: 'Till He Come.'"
"We now enter upon rendition of three songs which were great favorites in the camp meetings of the '44 movement. The first of these was written by Mrs. Phoebe Palmer, wife of Dr. W. C. Palmer of New York City, both of whom were very close friends of Charles Fitch, the originator of the prophetic chart. After a spiritual evening spent by Elder Fitch in their home, Mrs. Palmer was inspired to write this martial hymn, 'Watch, Ye Saints, With Eyelids Waking.'"
This representation of the early camp meeting had special interest, for Nashville is rich in historical associations, not the least of which is its religious history. The fact that the camp meeting started under the pioneer conditions of this early frontier, and indeed began with the pilgrimage of two preachers from Nashville northward, was of great interest to the audience. The following excerpt from a student's explanation at the start of the program is illuminating:
"The camp meeting is an institution born on the American frontier. It is one of the chief influences, through the itinerant preacher and the circuit rider, that turned the dangerous independence of the adventurous vanguard away from lawlessness and into the spiritual power which characterized the new West, and 'which has persisted in degree to our day. This State of Tennessee formed one wing of the early camp meeting development during the first decades of the nineteenth century. It extended from Tennessee through Kentucky to Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.
"The camp meeting began with the 'Great Revival' in 1800. Two brothers, William and John McGee, the one a Presbyterian, the other a Methodist minister, started from Nashville on a preaching tour toward Ohio, and stopped at Red River, Kentucky, where was one of several Presbyterian churches presided over by James McGready. In a series of Powerful sermons these preachers started a revival which was the beginning, or at least the tremendous accelerator, of the great spiritual life of the western frontier.
"The meeting continued for some days. One man brought his family in his covered wagon and camped on the ground. Soon after, a meeting was held at Muddy River, not far distant, and a number followed the example of this man, some camping in the open, some in their wagons, and a few beginning to use tents. Thus began the camp meetings of America, soon to spread in every direction, even back into the Eastern States. The camp meeting was especially favored by the Methodists, who soon began to form permanent campgrounds, with cabins or shacks for shelter. However, the transient camp meeting, with its improvised shelters and equipment, was more common.
"During the '44 movement the camp meeting was largely used by the Adventists, great numbers—even as many as ten thousand—often attending. These camps were generally primitive in equipment. While tents were sometimes used, the very usual custom was such as you see here reproduced: a rustic platform, flares on posts for light, and in chilly weather a log fire for warmth."
Students and teachers and friends were alike enthusiastic over this festival. One teacher who helped in the arrangements remarked to the dean: "I have wondered how Christian recreation differed from any other; but now we have a demonstration before our eyes." It was a demonstration of one phase of Christian recreation. The field is unlimited. This event not only ministered to the recreational needs of the students ; it gave an illustration of how our holidays may be spent profitably, as directed by the Spirit of prophecy. Of course other types of recreation are also needed and may be quite legitimate, but on this side of the recreational picture we have much building to do. Another year, there may be a one-day celebration ; but be it one or seven days, we trust it will be, in the words of our student chairman, "a tradition of Madison College." May we not be joined by many in school and church in making it "a tradition of Seventh-day Adventists"?