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The Impact of Scripture

Sea Change

Conversion in a Ship’s Cabin

Joseph Bates, a founding father of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, thrived on adventure. Twenty-one years as a sailor molded him into a strongwilled, passionate, and brave man. When convicted to follow Christ due to personal Bible study, he became an unstoppable force and inspiring leader for the early church. Growing up in the whaling town of New Bedford, Massachusetts, stories of adventure at sea filled Joseph Bates’ young mind. His stoutly Christian father disapproved. The image of a swearing sailor, spitting tobacco with a mug of gin in hand, appalled him. In hopes that a voyage might cure his son of dreams at sea, he allowed Bates to take a short journey to Boston. Rather than “cure” him, that journey ignited a sense of adventure in Bates. Just before Bates’ 15th birthday, his father permitted him to sign on as cab-


in boy aboard the Fanny. The journey from Massachusetts to Europe promised danger and discomfort… just what Bates longed for. Although not a professed Christian, Joseph Bates often called out to God in the face of death, a common occurrence at sea. In the spring of 1809, the pounding sea flung his ship into an iceberg off Newfoundland. Shipmates fell to their knees in prayer, crying for mercy. Bates prepared to die. Only a last minute “act of providence” saved both ship and crew. Even so, Bates did not pursue a personal relationship with Christ until many years later. Death was not the only danger at sea. Privateers captured Bates and threatened to cut off his fingers if he did not obey their demands. Earlier, the ship owner had attempted to bribe Bates and the crew not to speak about shrouded business dealings. A combination of

moral backbone and the threat of losing fingers compelled Bates to honesty and he journeyed free. He would not be so lucky later on. On the evening of April 27, 1810, a press-gang entered a boarding house in Liverpool, England. At sword-point, they “recruited” Bates and several other Americans to join the Royal Navy. A constant need for recruits during England’s war against Napoleon led England to forcibly compel over 6,000 Americans into the British Navy. This practice eventually contributed in starting the War of 1812 between the United States and England. Filthy living conditions, poor rations, and customary floggings colored life at sea. Bates remained forcibly in service for five years, including time spent as a prisoner of war. Bates exemplified a strong will to stand up for beliefs, despite difficulties.

January-February 2018 Southwestern Union Record  
January-February 2018 Southwestern Union Record  

The January-February 2018 issue of the Southwestern Union Record, the official publication of the Southwestern Union Conference of Seventh-d...