Member of any of a group of Protestant churches that arose in the U.S. in the 19th century and believe that the Second Coming of Christ is close at hand. Adventism was founded during a period marked by millennialism by William Miller (1782–1849), a former U.S. army officer, who asserted that Christ would return to separate saints from sinners and inaugurate his 1,000-year kingdom on earth sometime in the year before March 21, 1844. After that date passed, Miller and his followers set a new date, Oct. 22, 1844. The “Great Disappointment” was followed by a Mutual Conference of Adventists in 1845. Those who persisted concluded that Miller had misinterpreted the signs and that, though Christ had begun the “cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary,” he would not appear until he had completed that task. These Millerites founded the Seventh-Day Adventists in 1863; other Adventist groups include the Evangelical Adventists and the Advent Christian Church. Seventh-Day Adventists observe Saturday as the Sabbath and avoid eating meat and using narcotics or stimulants.
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Joseph Bates was born in Rochester, Massachusetts on July 8, 1792. (He did not have a middle name.) His father, also named Joseph, was a volunteer in the Revolutionary War and his mother was the daughter of Barnabas Rye of Sandwich, MA. In 1793, Bates' family moved to the part of New Bedford, Massachusetts that would become Fairhaven in 1812. In June 1807, Bates sailed as cabin boy on the new ship commanded by Elias Terry, called the Fanny to London via New York City. This was the commencement of Bates sailing career.
In 1810 Bates was forced into servitude for the British navy and spent time as a prisoner during the War of 1812. After his release he continued his career eventually becoming captain of a ship. During one of his voyages he read a copy of the Bible that his wife packed for him. He experienced conversion and became involved in a variety of reforms including helping to found an early temperance society. Bates became disturbed by the way the sailors (regardless of their religion) were forced to go to Anglican services; later in life he became adamant that the separation of church and state should be upheld. He also was a strong supporter of abolition. In his everyday life as a sailor he noticed the intemperance of the sailors and the resulting side effects. Many of these problems came from poor rations but many more were the result of overindulgence by the men. He became one of the champions of health reform; abstaining from all alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine, even becoming a vegetarian. In 1839 he accepted the teachings of William Miller that Jesus was coming soon.
After October 22, 1844, like many other Millerites, Bates sought meaning out of the Great Disappointment. During the spring of 1845 Bates accepted the seventh-day Sabbath after reading a pamphlet by T. M. Preble. Bates soon became known as the "apostle of the Sabbath" and wrote several booklets on the topic. One of the first, published in 1846, was entitled The Seventh Day Sabbath, a Perpetual Sign. One of Bates' most significant contribution was his ability to connect theologically the Sabbath with a unique understanding of the heavenly sanctuary. This apocalyptic understanding of theology would become known as the Great Controversy theme.
Joseph Bates was a strong supporter of James White and the prophetic gift, which he believed was manifested in visions received by the young Ellen G. White. He contributed to early publications such as A Word to the "Little Flock." Bates was active with the Whites in participating in a series of Bible Conferences held in 1848 to 1850 that have become known as the Sabbath and Sanctuary Conferences. During the 1850s Bates supported the development of more formal church organization that culminated in 1863 with the formation of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Some of Bates' major publications include: