While I was holding a tent effort in a large city where we were having a full tent every night, there came a real emergency. The pastor of a very large and popular church put three scathing articles in the largest paper in the city, and challenged me on three successive days for a debate on the Sabbath. I had not seen the articles or the challenges. The next night there was a noticeable decrease in attendance.
One woman and her daughter had attended every meeting. At the close of the service they came to me, showed me the articles in the paper, and asked whether I was afraid to answer the challenge. The minister who was attacking Seventh-day Adventists was their pastor. He had once been an Adventist church member, and had an uncle who was one of our ministers, or so he had stated in his articles.
The next issue of the paper contained my reply. I very calmly explained that I did not approve of public debates upon religious subjects, because my observation had been that the spirit which usually developed in debates was not the spirit of Christ. However, I declared that I was perfectly willing to discuss the subject thoroughly with the challenging minister if the matter might be handled in the following manner:
1. I would agree to discuss the subject jointly with him in any public place he cared to choose, in his church or elsewhere.
2. Since he had made the challenge, the burden of proof would rest upon him.
3. The length of each meeting would be limited to one hour, he to speak first, but not more than thirty minutes, and I would then speak for thirty minutes.
4. He must use the Bible to prove to the people why they should keep Sunday. I would use the Bible to prove to the people why they should keep Sabbath from sunset Friday night to sunset Saturday night.
5. I would agree to speak as many times as he would.
The next night our tent was filled again, and every night thereafter until we had to take the tent down because of cold weather. The Lord gave us a good number of converts. What seemed a crisis and hindrance only served to advertise our meetings and bring a crowd every night.
Needless to say, the challenging minister would not accept my suggestion for discussion. But he started a series of articles in which he ridiculed Mrs. E. G. White, foot washing, health reform, and other ,subjects. I answered each article in the paper, but in contrast to his harsh and cutting language I wrote in the spirit of Christ. By the time his third article and my reply appeared that minister's own congregation literally "fired" him.
If we keep a quiet and meek spirit with patience, the Holy Spirit will teach us what to say in emergencies, so that no one can harm the truth.