“Hoist with Their Own Petard” American Sentinel 9, 32, pp. 254, 255.

AN interesting case of mob rule bringing grief on its promoters is reported crisp and fresh from Maryland, where in the past so many instances of bigotry have gone unchecked. The facts are these:

Two Seventh-day Adventists ministers, named respectively Jones and Howard, moved their tent in which meetings are conducted, and their household goods, by boat, from a point near Annapolis to Kent Island, Md., landing at the wharf of the Chester River Steamboat Company. After paying for the use of the dock one of them proceeded to the village of Stevensville, three miles distant, to secure a lot for pitching the tent, while the other remained to care for the goods. A farmer with his team was engaged to haul the tent and fixtures, and one load accompanied by one minister was soon deposited on the rented plot of ground in Stevensville, the other man remaining with the rest of the baggage on the wharf waiting for the return of the wagon. No sooner had preparations begun for putting up the tent, than a mob of rough men came on the lot and in coarse language commanded the work to stop, and demolished what had been done. The local magistrate was one of the gang, and, in fact, seemed to be the leader. Of course, the minister expostulated with them and protested that he had come to preach the good news to them; but he was compelled to desist from further efforts to provide his family with even the shelter of a tent from the coming darkness and storm. One man at last opened his house for them to stay during the night. The driver of the wagon was afraid to do anything more, and the ministers on the wharf remained all night guarding the property in his charge. Early next morning he was made acquainted with affairs at the other end of the line by the appearing of his brother minister. Together they consulted what step to take next, and the same faithful guardian remained by the stuff while the other started for Middletown, Del., to get further instructions and advice form the president of the conference under whose direction they labor.

Part of the first seven miles of the journey from Stevensville to Ford’s Store was made on foot through deep dust and under a broiling sun, and then a ride was secured by paying fifty cents. A large church of Seventh-day Adventists live at Ford’s Store, and here the minister had a good brother take his horse and drive to Centreville, twelve miles farther on, where he could get a slow train to Middletown. It was nearly night when he arrived there, and after a few hurried words with the presiding officer he returned to Kent Island. By good fortune he met on the way the sheriff of the county where the trouble occurred and to him related his case and received assurance of protection the following morning in putting up the tent. Several brethren of the Ford’s Store Church went over, and with their assistance the work was done; but the sheriff did not appear as promised. By a continual watch the rest of the day and the following night, only two ropes were cut on the tent by the angry mob that surrounded the little band.

In the meantime several men of the village who claimed to represent the public feeling, came as a committee and demanded as the only condition of peace and safety to persons and property, that the men and tents leave the island. The ministers took their names and agreed to consult again with the president of the conference by letter and a truce was declared for a little season.

The sheriff and his deputy arrived on the scene at this juncture, and on learning that the committee had kindly left their names, he promptly announced his determination to arrest every one of them and take them back to Centreville. He soon had the committee before him, and then they were informed that they had made themselves liable to his authority and of his purpose to prosecute them to the full extent of the law. At last he consented to let the ministers themselves say whether or not the committee should be arrested, and, taking the leader, the local magistrate, he marched him into the presence of his terrible foes, and said that just what the ministers said in the matter should be done. Of course, the preachers said, “Let the men go; we don’t want to trouble them. We want to preach the gospel of peace, and so, do not arrest these men.” The sheriff then informed the abashed “committee” that the would be held responsible if any further damage was done, and let them go—not exactly rejoicing, but glad to get out of the hole so easily. The consequence is that these men must now see that no harm comes to the preachers or the tents, else they will have to give an account to the sheriff. While the poor ministers sweetly sleep in peace after their hard experience, the ever vigilant committee must sit up and guard the men they tried to drive out of town. It is needless to say that under the guardianship of self-preservation from the county jail, the “public sentiment” they claimed to represent is fast changing in favor of the Seventh-day Adventist preachers.

The following reply from the president of the conference was received by the committee soon after the sheriff’s visit, and it is hoped they have read it with profit:—

Middletown, Del., July 28, 1894.

Stevensville, Kent Island, Md.

DEAR SIRS: I have received the proposition made by your body to Messrs Jones and Howard, ministers of the gospel and licensed by the Seventh-day Adventist Conference, which I have the honor to represent as president. From their statement of the kind manner in which you requested them to leave the place and offered to refund some items of expense incurred by [255] them in moving, we are persuaded that you are gentlemen of candor and that the course you recommend is one in which you desire to protect us, as well as the public, from any difficulty. You will therefore be able to appreciate our statement and reply, as follows:

We are not our own masters in these matters. We profess allegiance to Christ, whose servants we are. He bids us to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He tells us that persecution will be the lot of those who do his bidding, but that he will be with us to the end of the world. We have no option to seek the favor of men on one hand or to escape their hatred on the other. Our business is plain and simple and we cannot vary from it without denying our Saviour and proving unworthy of the name we bear through him. For this, the highest of all reasons, we cannot agree to leave that to any other locality without giving the knowledge we are commissioned to impart. When persons, individually, refuse to hear our Master we have no more to do and will quietly leave them, but we cannot recognize the right of any committee to decide this question for others. If the people are not willing to search the Scriptures to see if these things are so we will soon leave, but till then we must offer them the bread of life and no promises or threats will change our steadfast purpose. Millions of martyrs have died for the principle we hold and we are willing to meet the same end if God wills it so. What would the Methodists of Kent Island think if a proposal was made to them to close up their churches and send their ministers away? In the past they suffered as Seventh-day Adventists suffer now, but this did not hinder them and neither will it deter us.

Religious prejudice in both cases was what made the trouble. We are confident that we have a work to do similar to that done by John Wesley and his followers of the past. We therefore ask, in the name of our common Master, that we be permitted to preach the message that all may decide what to do.

Another reason for declining to leave Kent Island as proposed by you, is that we have the same civil right to peacably [sic.] go and come and labor in your midst as any other individuals. We are quiet, upright citizens of a common country. It is an insult, though not intended, to ask us to leave the community like characters dangerous to the welfare of our fellow-men. We are not criminals and shall not accept to be treated as such without protest. We will appeal to the authorities to protect us in the inalienable rights of all men. Our fathers fought for the freedom of this land and we still claim it for ourselves and everybody else. We have no more privileges than others, but we are entitled to the same. Would either of the gentlemen of the committee consent to be driven from his lawful labor either by bribes or intimidation? His answer is ours. We may possibly suffer for our faith but we cannot yield and still at heart be men. Civil and religious liberty are involved and we will sacrifice the principle of neither to save ourselves trouble from persons who ignore the God-given right of all men.

Permit me to make a suggestion that will obviate the difficulty feared and the truth not be compromised. Let them, each and all, as men of influence and reputation in the locality, take an open and decided stand against the lawless persons who seek to injure us in our legitimate rights and thus destroy the peace of the public. With such assistance from you, gentlemen, we will have good order and I trust a true Christian spirit may be seen among us all. It you will labor to restrain the acts of violence contemplated instead of urging us to yield to it and violate the divine rights and duties before mentioned you will find us ready to second every effort made for harmony.

Trusting that you will see the justice of our claim and stand true to principle with us, I am

Yours very respectfully, H. E. ROBINSON,

Pres. Atl. Conf. Seventh-day Adventists.

At this writing no reply has been made to President Robinson’s letter, and no further violence has been offered to the ministers.

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