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Ellen G. White: The Early Years: 1827-1862 (vol. 1)

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    The Support of the Ministers

    The church was growing; as it spread to the West, families of means accepted the message. For some it was difficult to grasp their responsibility in giving financial support to the cause they loved. During the years 1857 and 1858, the situation became desperate. There was no church organization; there was no church treasury. Those who felt called to enter the ministry faced great sacrifices, for they were dependent upon the gifts placed in their hands as they moved from place to place heralding the message. Dedication and sacrifice were called for.1BIO 383.3

    John Loughborough, after being pried loose from Waukon, Iowa, in early January, 1857, by the visit of the Whites, held tent meetings in Illinois. He reported, concerning financial support:1BIO 383.4

    I then returned to Waukon, Iowa, having received for my four months’ labor my board, lodging, and traveling expenses, and about $15 in money.—Pacific Union Recorder, September 8, 1910.1BIO 383.5

    This did not leave him much to take home to his wife, Mary, in Waukon. James and Ellen White pressed him to come to Battle Creek, and here James White found some help for the family. Loughborough wrote:1BIO 383.6

    At that time an effort was being made to secure humble homes for some of the approved, yet poor, ministers. Some persons had now accepted the truth who had means. In the west part of Battle Creek Brother White found opportunity to obtain a lot and cottage for the writer for $400. Aside from about $150 that I paid, he raised the money from willing brethren who could invest $25 each.—Ibid.1BIO 383.7

    When means became more plentiful and ministers were paid a salary, Loughborough contributed more to the cause through gifts to special enterprises than he received in financial help in securing a home (Ibid.)1BIO 384.1

    But back to Loughborough's account of the situation in 1857:1BIO 384.2

    That winter of 1857-1858 was a hard winter, not on account of the scarcity of provisions, but because of the low price of the abundance of grains raised the summer previous....1BIO 384.3

    As I recount what I received for my labors in Michigan for the whole six months of the winter of 1857-1858, let it be borne in mind that our attention had not yet been called to the matter of “reform in diet.” That light came in the view given to Sister White in Otsego, Michigan, June 6, 1863.1BIO 384.4

    For the whole winter of 1857-1858 I received three ten-pound cakes of maple sugar, ten bushels of wheat, five bushels of apples, five bushels of potatoes, one ham, one half of a small hog, one peck of beans, and $4 in cash. This with the small profit on our boarders [three Review office employees] brought me through the winter in better condition than other of our ministers.—Ibid., October 6, 19101BIO 384.5

    Through the Review of April 8, 1858, M. E. Cornell called attention to money due from church members who had secured books from the ministers, promising to pay in a short time. He prodded them:1BIO 384.6

    If they have forgotten it, we trust that this friendly hint, together with the reproving Spirit, may bring it to their remembrance. We would assure you, dear friends, these debts are not forgiven, and will not be, until at least you manifest feeling enough in regard to it to write to us, or in some way inform us why you do not cancel so sacred an obligation. We must make our returns to the publishing office. Their repeated calls, together with the continual wants of our families, have hitherto rendered it impossible to forget these little dues.—The Review and Herald, April 8, 1858.1BIO 384.7

    Cornell was one of the most fruitful soul winners in the cause at that time. He closed his appeal with these words:1BIO 385.1

    Messengers must sacrifice their worldly interests, and wear out their very lives in ministering in spiritual things, and it is all right; we complain not; and if necessary, minister also in carnal things, even to those who are less needy than ourselves, but it would at least be some relief to hear from them.—Ibid.1BIO 385.2

    A few weeks earlier at a conference in Illinois, considering the evangelistic thrust that should be made in the coming summer, the brethren developed a plan to bring in an evangelist. Josiah Hart, of Round Grove, a man of some means, surrounded by others in like financial circumstances, reported in the Review:1BIO 385.3

    The subject of removing Brother Ingraham and family west was next considered. Brethren Berry and Newton, residing at Crane's Grove, Stephenson County, offered to maintain his family one year, and find a house, or if it should be necessary to build a house, they will give a piece of land, the church at large promising to aid him in building. It was voted to extend a call to Brother Ingraham to come west, but definite arrangements were postponed till his arrival.—Ibid., April 8, 18581BIO 385.4

    But this seemed to be the exception to what generally happened around the field. In early April, James White, looking toward the summer of 1858 and thinking of the rapidly opening West, named the States of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota, as promising fields of labor. He declared:1BIO 385.5

    It would require from $300 to $500 to sustain such an enterprise [the tent in Iowa] in a manner to accomplish the most good. Where are the brethren who are ready with their hundreds, their fifties, their twenty-fives, or their tens? Where?1BIO 385.6

    Satan seems to have the control of the purses of the church, with very few exceptions. Repeated disappointments are saddening and discouraging our preachers. They have generally moved out expecting to be sustained by their brethren in their arduous work; but their brethren have often failed to do their duty. They have looked on apparently unmoved, and have seen one after another of our preachers break down in health through overlabor, and deprivation for want of means, while they have continued to hug their earthly treasures to their hearts.1BIO 385.7

    Disappointment has been the sad lot of our preachers, and now several of them are much sunken down in poverty, broken-down health, and discouragement. We suggest to our preaching brethren that it might be best to avoid taking responsibilities which the church should bear. Let the brethren feel the responsibilities which justly rest upon them. Spare your strength and health.—Ibid., April 8, 18581BIO 386.1

    Then he suggested a plan that could provide regular support:1BIO 386.2

    Should the church freely hand out to sustain the cause the amount of the annual taxes on their property, there would be in the Lord's treasury double the amount wanted to sustain the cause in all its departments.—Ibid.

    Through the summer there was little improvement in the matter of financial support for ministers and their families. Evangelists J. B. Frisbie and S. W. Rhodes worked among the communities in central and eastern Michigan, often in places where there were companies of well-established believers. In closing their report for the Review, they made a revealing statement:1BIO 386.3

    A word on sacrificing and we close. Times are hard, and what will be done? We met with scores of brethren who tell the same thing: “I want to help but cannot, because times are hard, and I have not means“: and some will begin to talk of selling some or all of their land; but there are no buyers at present.1BIO 386.4

    We dare not advise what others’ duty may be; but this we do know, that the work of God must not stop. There is means enough among Sabbathkeepers that can be spared, and it would be a blessing to those who have more than they need, to sacrifice and help now; for the time will come when their help will not be needed.1BIO 386.5

    When some say, Come again, we are glad to see you, don't stay away so long next time, et cetera, they must remember that the preachers must be cared for, or they must labor with their hands to support their families. We are not alone in this. It will cost something to be saved, and to save others; and should it cost all, it will be cheap enough.1BIO 387.1

    The amount received before we arrived at Monterey was $3.85. Our expenses to that time had been $4.12, so that had we returned home from Wayland, what we received would have fallen somewhat short of meeting our expenses. We do not state this to complain, but that the church may think of these things. Brethren have done much better in times past; but we speak of our last trip and the hard times.—Ibid., September 2, 18581BIO 387.2

    James and Ellen White were also struggling. While some of the ministers had to drop out from time to time and labor with their hands to support their families, James White found as he traveled among the believers that there were those in need of Bibles and other books. He bought supplies and carried some with him, or supplied them from Battle Creek. These he sold at a profit. The Review of May 13, 1858, carried this back page notice:1BIO 387.3

    We have for sale Cruden's Concordance, Nelson on Infidelity, Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress.—JW.1BIO 387.4


    We have a supply of English Bibles, three sizes.—JW.

    With the publication of The Great Controversy in the summer of 1858, Ellen White had a little income. But as reported in the Ibid., November 25, 1858, “what little profit there was on it was all solemnly dedicated to the Lord, and $25 out of it had already been given to one of the Lord's needy servants [M. B. Czechowski].”1BIO 387.5

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