Can You Wear James White's Tattered Coat?

From One Leader to Another.

Robert H. Pierson is president of the General Conference of Seventhday Adventists.

I WANT to talk with you about the spirit of the pioneers—those indomitable men and women who studied and worked and prayed and sacrificed to bring the Seventh-day Adventist Movement into existence. We do well to consider their example frequently and prayerfully.

They were a totally committed breed, absolutely undaunted by opposition, undismayed by difficulties. They traveled long hours by buggy, by wagon, by sleigh, or by train to meet their appointments—often to distant places. No jet planes sped them quickly and comfort ably to their destinations. No Howard Johnsons or Holiday Inns offered them the luxury of overnight rest. They selected cheap hotels or sat up all night on trains to save precious pennies "for the cause."

"The cause of God lay so near the heart of the pioneers in this message that they seldom took a meal at a hotel, even though the cost was but twenty-five cents each." —Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 400.

Their Cause

To those early Adventist leaders this Heaven-sent message, this God-ordained movement, was their cause, and they never failed to refer to it as such! They gave everything—their means, their health, their strength, their all for the cause. They made do with secondhand or homemade furniture some times created from packing crates. James White scythed hay for 87 1/2 cents an acre, and part of that "sweat money" was used to help print literature that would send "the truth" they loved into thousands of homes to help "the unwarned" prepare for the coming of Jesus. Their commitment to the cause was a Pauline "this one thing I do" (Phil. 3:13). Everything else was secondary. "The cause" was first! They "lived," they "slept," they "ate" their newly found faith—the truth. This truth came to them as the Spirit blessed days of study and labor, nights of research and prayer.

With such a catalyst the work of God grew and prospered. It spanned the continent, leaped the oceans by the turn of the century, was established on every inhabited continent of earth. It was done without multimillion-dollar budgets and the great institutions that characterize the work in the 1970's.

What a legacy those dauntless spirits passed on to us! It is well for us as second-, third-, fourth-, and even fifth-generation Seventh-day Adventists to "call to remembrance the former days." We dare not forget the way the Lord has led us in the past!

Have we grown spiritually fat and flabby in the seventies? Have we lost the irrepressible spirit of our founding fathers? Are we as leaders in the remnant church less sensitive to the spirit of urgency that characterized our spiritual progenitors? Has the message become old hat, the movement merely a church?

Rather Read About Than Wear?

Would we much rather read about James White's patched and tattered coat than wear it? These stories of sacrifice and poverty tug at our heartstrings for a few short moments as we listen to or read them. But the glorious, prosperous here and now impairs our memory span.

Think this over: If the pioneers had had our resources with their spirit, what could not they have accomplished? Then think this over carefully and prayer fully: With the resources we have, if we had their spirit and the power of God, what would we be doing today?

Fellow leaders—I challenge you, with God's help, recover the spirit of the pioneers. "Call to remembrance the former days." Move out for God! Let's get the work finished in your neighborhood, in your community, in your church, in your conference, in your union, in your division and around the world, and go home!

God is expecting you to provide such dynamic incentive to your people—because you are a leader.

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Robert H. Pierson is president of the General Conference of Seventhday Adventists.

August 1976

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