Origin of Our Bible Work 1. The Early Beginnings

Origin of Our Bible Work 1. The Early Beginnings

Beginning with this number of THE MINISTRY, a series of six consecutive articles on the origin of the Bible work will be presented.

L.C.K. is an associate editor of the Ministry.

Beginning with this number of THE MINISTRY, a series of six consecutive articles on the origin of the Bible work will be presented. This is the first attempt of the Ministerial Association to gather information on the background of an evangelistic teaching method now well adopted by all groups of denominational workers. Having checked the early records of the Bible work in the Signs of the Times, Review and Herald, and other available sources, Miss Kleuser gathered ad­ditional facts from Jennie Owen McClelland, Dores and Ella Robinson, and Arthur W. Spalding. These ar­ticles comprise a fascinating story of the development of our denominational Bible work, and will be of spe­cial interest to all Bible instructors, theological stu­dents, Bible instructor training groups, and seminars. Every Bible teacher and minister in our work will find this material of value. We suggest that the series be preserved for future reference.—THE EDITORS.

From the rise of the Advent message in the early decades of the nineteenth cen­tury to the year 1883, we find but little clue to any organized Bible work on the part of Seventh-day Adventists. If the term Bible work was used at all among our pioneers during those first decades of our work, its sig­nificance as a method of teaching had not yet been defined. But the reader of our early de­nominational articles cannot fail to receive a most profound impression that these mission­ary-minded believers of the Second Advent and the Sabbath truth—such as Rachel Preston, our Sabbath pioneer—always defended their course with the Bible. That method was a part of their belief. No sooner was a soul convinced of the imminent return of Christ to this world and of God's unchangeable Sabbath than he began to try to convince others. There was no hiding of any truth on the part of these Bible advocates.

Here and there one finds articles in the Review and Herald and Signs of the Times breathing the intense struggles these pioneers experienced while accepting new-found light. Their lot was far from easy, for people did not readily change their religion, and doing so would stir up whole communities. At times editors would attack them heartily and unfairly, as was the case with young Merritt Cornell, a first-day Adventist preacher. In an interesting defense addressed to the editor of the Harbinger, a first-day (Adventist) publication, this young minister is seen as being capable of defending well his new-found doctrines.

Brother Cornell and his dauntless wife, Angeline, were convinced of the Sabbath mes­sage while studying under Joseph Bates during June and July of 1852. At the first meeting with Elder Bates and our believers in the home of Dan R. Palmer at Jackson, Michigan, where Cornell thought he could silence Brother Bates in short order, he found himself put to rout, and after pursuing the study of the message with a sincere desire to know Bible truth, both he and his wife accepted the faith.

After the Cornelis joined the Adventist church we catch occasional glimpses of their missionary zeal as they labored for the cause in different States. Angeline would accompany her husband on many of his missionary tours and work with him as a personal worker, always defending truth with her Bible. It is interesting to read James White's account of their work in Iowa in the Review and Herald of March 8, 1860.

"Iowa seems to be a very encouraging field of labor. The willingness and even the anxiety to hear in new places is astonishing. The way is open for Bro. Cornell to labor successfully in this part of the State. Sister Cornell has well acted her part. The mode of warfare is something as follows: Bro. Cornell goes out alone into a new place, perhaps puts up at the tavern, preaches a few days, when friends appear to invite him to their houses ; and when the work is wellunder way, Sister C. joins her husband, and labors from house to house as they are invited. And when Bro. Cornell's work is done, it is a good place for Sister C. to remain and defend the truth in private conversa­tion, and bear responsibilities of the work in the midst of young disciples. In this way both can bear a part in the good work, which will bring a glorious reward in the next kingdom."

We are indebted to our skillful denomina­tional biographer, Arthur W. Spalding, for the following information regarding the Cornelis and the early personal work of his wife, Angeline.

"Merritt E. Cornell, a young preacher brought into the faith by Bates in /852, was an impetuous and en­ergetic worker. He bought the first tent and was asso­ciated with Loughborough in the holding of evangelis­tic meetings, the first pitch being at Battle Creek, for two days only, short stops then being the rule. He liked Battle Creek so much that, being footfree, he brought his wife Angie to live there while, like all Adventist preachers not bound to farm or business, he ranged through the widening field.

"Angeline Lyon Cornell was a fit companion to her husband, a slender young woman of energy, initiative, and decided opinions, which happily comported with her husband's, and with a gift of speech which shows in her early letters to the Review and Herald. There was no provision then for the regular payment of preachers, still less for their wives to accompany them; yet Angie Cornell was much with her husband, often remaining at a place after his departure, visiting and teaching the interested ones—as the later phrase ran, 'binding off the effort.' She was indeed the pioneer and the exemplar of today's Bible instructors and evangelists' assistants.

"Shortly her father, Henry Lyon, living near Ply­mouth in the eastern part of the State, sold his farm in order to have money to invest in the cause. He and his wife moved to Battle Creek in 1854, and he en­gaged in carpentry to support his family. It was Henry Lyon, doubtless strongly abetted by his energetic son-in-law, who cOnceived the idea of getting James White to come to Battle Creek, and who induced his three friends, Palmer, Smith, and Kellogg, to go in with him in the investment which built the first owned home of the Review and Herald."—Footprints of the Pio­neers, pp. 160-162.

Bearing in mind that Seventh-day Adventists have always been conservative, and marking well that our pioneer frugality would hardly have allowed for the additional expense of em­ploying the wives of our ministers to do per­sonal work (Evangelism, pp. 491-493), we would hardly expect to find a record of confer­ence Bible instructors during this period of our history. Even Mrs. White's traveling expenses often had to be met by the liberality of friendly believers. And yet, even in those earlier days we find some of our sisters mentioned for their missionary zeal, and there are sufficient articles from their pens to suggest that they were gifted. One of these interesting missionary experi­ences, entitled "From Sister Peckham," is found in the Review and Herald of June 10, 1852. Living in Volney, New York, Sister Peckham tells about her missionary visit with a woman whose type has been met many times since then by our Bible instructors. After reading the article, we conclude that here was more than Bible instructor ability in embryo!

"I called upon a sick woman a few days since, who has been afflicted with swellings in the head, extremely painful, so that for seven weeks past she said she had realized but one night's natural sleep ; and spoke of the wonderful manner in which God had sustained her. Said she had received grace just as she needed, and added, I have had the greatest evidence of my acceptance with God during my affliction that I have ever had; and quoted these words, 'Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now keep I Thy law.'

"I carefully introduced the Sabbath, and referred to her sickness as the means, perhaps, that God designed to bring her where these things might reach her. Her bosom began to swell with emotion, and she broke out, saying, 'Christ ! Christ ! He is all to me. He is every­thing. Your Sabbaths, away with them. If you have not got the love of God in your soul what good can these things do.'

"I replied, we may have the love of God in our souls, and feel that Christ is all to us, yet search for the truth, and try to find out our own errors, that we may put them away. (It seems to me that the love of Christ will constrain us to these things.) She broke out in a strain louder than before, saying, 'If I have Jesus Christ formed within, the hope of glory, what do I want more? What more can I have? Another aged and honorable lady who sat by, joined with her, saying the same words. Now, then, if one commandment is to be discarded, as not worthy of our notice, then others may be disposed of in the same way, and finally no commandment be binding on us. (Under grace as some would have it)"

To find the connecting links of the Bible in­structor story between the sixties and eighties one must read between the lines of the Review or Signs articles. There was then no organized plan for Bible work, but we need not stretch a point to credit many a zealous minister's wife with rare Bible:instructor talent. In a personal letter A. W. Spalding lists a number of the wives of missionaries who were tied in with their husband's evangelism. These overseas workers often had to do a larger work than others more useful locally. He says:

"There was Adelia Patten, who married I. D. Van Horn. She was the most versatile young woman, I think, ever to appear in our ranks: a master teacher of children, starting the Sabbath school lessons; editor of the Youth's Instructor; accomplished secretary and accountant, straightening out the tangled accounts of the publishing company ; and an efficient helper of her husband in evangelistic work after she married.

"Maud Sisley Boyd deserves a place on the list of Bible workers. In the Review and Herald, Sept. 18, 1924, pp. 19, 20, in an account of the South African work, her picture appears, and she is said to have been 'the first of our women missionaries to go overseas.' Her husband, Charles L. Boyd, was one of the first two ministers sent to South Africa, in 1887; the other was D. A. Robinson and wife. . . .

"I knew the Boyds after their return, and I know Mrs. Boyd to have been an active missionary worker in various fields in America. Her sister, Nellie, mar­ried Elder G. B. Starr, and . . . she should have a prominent place in the list, for she was a very valuable worker in America and Australia. . . .

"I have recovered the maiden name of Mrs. I. J. Hankins. It was Eva Perkins, and she was the first corresponding secretary of the International Sabbath School Association (or rather, as then called, The General Sabbath School Association), 1874. She mar­ried E. B. Miller, and after his death I. J. Hankins, whose wife had also died in Africa. Mrs. Hankins started in the Bible work before she was married.

"There was also Ellen Lane, wife of E. B. Lane, who worked with her husband (in the 1870's), and when he fell sick took his place in the pulpit, and thereafter was a minister in her own right. . . . We young people knew she was a notable woman."

During the last decades of the nineteenth century the work of such women as Jennie Owen (Illinois), Helen McKinnon (Michigan), and Hettie Hurd Haskell (California) are mentioned. Others in Great Britain as well as America were being trained as Bible instructors under their able leadership. (See Youth's In­structor, March 25 to June To, 1947.)

As we reach the year 1900 in our research we find no difficulty in listing a growing group of remarkably well-trained personal workers among our sisters. The wives of S. N. Haskell, A. T. Robinson, and G. B. Starr are but a few of the outstanding Bible teachers whose back­ground and skill make a remarkable contribu­tion to our evangelistic work during those decades. Many of our most experienced Bible instructors of the present generation were privi­leged to sit at the feet of these godly workers. I myself do not forget the kind and wise coun­sel of these three women at workers' meetings.

We young people caught the Advent spirit from these noble Bible teachers, and many a successful Bible work technique was learned from them. There was great power in their ministry, and thus Bible work made an unusual appeal to their youthful followers. They met the needs of larger as well as smaller congrega­tions, and were good public speakers. These early Bible instructors passed on to their suc­cessors a wonderful heritage of faith, zeal, and skill.                                                          

L. C. K.

Advertisement - RevivalandReformation 300x250

Ministry reserves the right to approve, disapprove, and delete comments at our discretion and will not be able to respond to inquiries about these comments. Please ensure that your words are respectful, courteous, and relevant.

comments powered by Disqus

L.C.K. is an associate editor of the Ministry.

Digital delivery

If you're a print subscriber, we'll complement your print copy of Ministry with an electronic version.

Sign up
Advertisement - Southern Adv Univ 180x150 - Animated


Recent issues

See All
Advertisement - Healthy and Happy Family - Skyscraper 160x600