Meet Joseph Bates

January 30  Meet Joseph Bates


I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go. Gen. 28:15, NIV.

Joseph Bates is the core individual during the earliest period of Seventh-day Adventism. He not only stands at the center of the development of the movement's doctrinal position, but he will eventually introduce Seventh-day Adventism's other two founders to the Sabbath. Bates, as we will see, was not only the key founder of Adventism, but he would be its most zealous missionary. It is safe to say that there would be no Seventh-day Adventism as we know it without his pioneering leadership.

But Bates hadn't always been a Christian. Born in Massachusetts on July 8, 1792, he gave up the faith of his father early in life. His hometown was becoming the whaling capital of the United States, and he dreamed day and night of an adventurous life at sea.

His father, who had larger plans for the boy, finally gave his permission in the hopes that a voyage would "cure" him. But it had the opposite effect.

In July 1807, just before his fifeenth birthday, Joseph sailded as a cabin boy on a voyage to Europe. His early seagoing experiences might have led a more timid person to give up his dreams and return home. For example, on the return voyage from England the young seaman managed to fall off of one of the mastheads into the ocean near a large shark that some of his mates had been baiting. If the creature hadn't shifted its position at that precise moment, Bates would have had a  very short career at sea.

In the spring of 1809 Bates had another near-fatal experience when his ship struck an iceberg off newfoundland. Trapped in the ship's hold, he and another sailor held each other in the dark and prepared to die as they heard from time to time "the screams and cries of some of our wretched companions, on the deck above us, begging God for mercy."

Years later Bates wrote of his spiritual stirrings at the time: "Oh, the dreadful thought! Here to  yield up my account and . . .sink with the wrecked ship to the bottom of the ocean, so far from home and friends, without the least. . .hope of heaven."

The rugged young man had had a wake-up call, but he wasn't ready to offer his life to God yet.

We can be thankful that God didn't give up. And the blessed truth is that He is still working, even for our very own loved ones.

This name is put upon every follower of Christ. It is the heritage of the child of God. The family are called after the Father. The prophet Jeremiah, in the time of Israel's sore distress and tribulation, prayed, "We are called by Thy name; leave us not." Jeremiah 14:9(TFMB 107).