WE have in the past said much in these columns about the persecution of Seventh-day Adventists in this and other countries, by means of Sunday laws; and it may not be amiss to give a short pen sketch of their thirty-first General Conference which was in session in Battle Creek, Mich., from February 14 to March 4. The meetings were held in their large tabernacle, which is heated by steam and lighted by electricity, and capable of seating 2,500 people.
The delegates to the conference numbered only about one hundred and twenty-five, but the main auditorium was comfortably filled at every meeting, and at the evening services the tabernacle, with its vestries and galleries, was literally packed.
In this conference were men from almost every State and Territory in the American Union; from Canada, from Germany, from England, from France, from Scandinavia, from Turkey, from South Africa, from South America, and from the islands of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. There were men who have suffered imprisonment for their faith, in Russia, in Switzerland, in Turkey, and in several of our American States (the details of which have been told in these columns from time to time).
Seventh-day Adventists are not an unorganized band of unpractical and visionary fanatics, but have as complete and perfect a representative church government as any denomination in the world; and though they number, all told, less than fifty thousand communicants, their work has encircled the globe. The sun never sets upon their educational and publishing institutions, nor upon their cotton tabernacles—tents—in which their summer evangelistic services are conducted. They have, by the living preacher, planted the standard of truth upon every continent, and their work extends from Finland on the north to the extremity of New Zealand on the south. They have publications in nearly a score of languages, and their colporters, Bible-readers, and ministers, have penetrated alike the busy mart, the wilds of Africa, the jungles of India, and the solitude of lonely Pitcairn. Where the voice of the living preacher has not been heard, the printed page has borne its silent testimony to the solemn truths which make the Adventists a separate and a peculiar people.
The Seventh-day Adventist General Conference is—like all their conferences—a representative body. It is composed of delegates from the several States, provincial and national conferences, embracing the churches of North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and the islands of the sea.
Having had its rise in the United States, the Seventh-day Adventist denomination naturally has headquarters here, as also its largest  membership and the greatest number of its local conferences. The United States alone has thirty-two organized and self-supporting conferences, besides the Southern District—a General Conference mission field. Canada has two organized, self-supporting conferences and a General Conference mission field. The work in Great Britain is under the supervision of the British Mission, with headquarters at London. The other conferences and missions in Europe are: the Central European Conference, the Danish Conference, the Conference of Norway, the Conference of Sweden, the German Mission, and the Russian Mission. The other foreign conferences are the South African Conference, the Australasian Union Conference, the New Zealand Conference and the Polynesian Mission. Work directly under the direction of the Foreign Mission Board is also being carried on in India, China, and the newly-opened portions of Africa. A missionary ship is rapidly spreading among the numerous islands of Oceanica a knowledge of the “gospel of the kingdom.”
Seventh-day Adventists have no creed but the Bible. They depend for unity not upon written creeds, not upon resolutions of synods or votes of conferences, but upon the Spirit of God which the Saviour promised to send to lead his people into all truth. Hence, while in their conferences they sometimes earnestly discuss doctrine, they never by vote decide questions of faith, and yet they are the most united people upon the face of the globe. Their conferences are models of order and system, being devoted to Bible study, generally in the form of lectures, with privilege of asking questions; to devotional and social services, and to the transaction of business.
Their local work is supported by tithes voluntarily paid by the members. (This is not made a test of fellowship.) Their foreign work is sustained by special donations, and freewill offerings made for the purpose of sending the gospel into “the regions beyond.”
Seventh-day Adventists, as their name indicates, are observers of the seventh day of the week. This day they hold to be “the Sabbath” and “Lord’s day” of the New Testament, as it is admittedly “the Sabbath” of the Old. With them the fourth commandment of the Decalogue stands upon an equality with the other nine; all are to be kept, not outwardly merely, but from the heart; not by human effort, but by divine power received by faith in the Son of God, who, by a life of perfect righteousness, “condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.”
Adventists do not, as is sometimes falsely charged, depend for salvation upon their observance of the Sabbath. They regard all good works not as means of grace, but as the fruit of grace, and teach that the true Sabbath-keeping is possible only to those who are in Christ, and that merely refraining from work and business on the seventh day of the week is not Sabbath-keeping. The law of God they hold to be spiritual and hence can be kept only by those who are spiritual.
As is also indicated by their name, Seventh-day Adventists are believers in the literal, visible, second coming of Christ. This event they regard as near; but they hold to no definite time, believing that God has not revealed even the year of the second advent, much less the day and hour. And yet, because Seventh-day Adventists teach the near coming of Christ, they are repeatedly, either ignorantly or maliciously, charged with the time-setting folly of other bodies of Adventists. Nothing however could be farther from the truth.
Seventh-day Adventists are evangelical; that is, Bible Christians, believing all things that are written in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Squaring their lives by the Word of God, they are a sober, industrious, law-abiding people. They are not found in our police or criminal courts, except as they are haled there for fidelity to the law of their God. But it may be asked, Why do not Adventists keep two days and thus avoid this persecution? The answer is that Adventists regard Sunday as a rival of the Sabbath of the Lord; and with them, to keep it would be to deny the Lord of the Sabbath. Even courts of justice have denied that refusing to keep Sunday is with Adventists a matter of conscience, and have branded their fidelity to their principles as mere obstinacy; but so did the Roman emperors and governors the refusal of the early Christians to offer incense to the Roman gods. The Christians were not forbidden, they argued, to worship their God; they were merely required also to honor the national gods. It is the same with the Adventists. It is said: They may keep the seventh day if they will, but they should also keep Sunday. But “no man can serve two masters.” God has set forth the Sabbath as the badge of his authority; it is his ensign: “Moreover also I have them my Sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them.” Ezekiel 20:12. To give like recognition to a rival sign would be the same as for soldiers to pay equal honors to the flag of their rightful sovereign and to that of a rebel prince; for that is just what the Sunday is, the badge of antichrist, the sign of sun worship anciently and of the papacy in modern times, and of rebellion against God and his law from the fall until the present moment. It is the “wild solar holiday of all pagan times,” and is to-day flaunted by Rome in the face of the world with the taunt that “by keeping Sunday, they acknowledge the church’s power to ordain feasts, and to command them under sin,” and “the observance of Sunday by Protestants is an homage [worship] they pay, in spite of themselves, to the authority of the [Roman Catholic] church.”
Adventists are staunch friends of education, faithfully sustaining their schools where established and continually planting new ones. The educational secretary reported to the conference that there were three thousand students in their schools in this and other lands.
Believing that it is a Christian duty to present not only the mind but the body a living sacrifice to God, and that all our powers should be sanctified to his service, in obedience to the inspired injunction: “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God,” they eschew the use of all intoxicating liquors, tobacco, etc., and adopt a healthful though liberal diet. In short, with Adventists, religion is not something to be put on like a dress coat on the Sabbath and then to be carefully laid away for the “six working days,” but is a living power designed to sanctify the life every day, to make one a better neighbor, a better husband, a better wife, a better father, a better mother, a better child; and eventually and above all, a citizen of that better country “wherein dwelleth righteousness.”
The success achieved by the Adventists since the holding of their first conference in 1849 is truly phenominal [sic.], especially in view of the fact that they have almost at every step encountered bitter opposition and not infrequently open persecution. But with unswerving faith in God and in the justice of their cause they have moved steadily forward and have seen the work prosper in their hands. Battle Creek, Mich.