History of the Church of God
(America and the Sabbath)
by Peter Salemi
Now in this point in time we see the Seventh-day Baptists as the church of God. They had many local congregations in America with the headquarters at Rhode Island.
The churches in America continued to grow throughout the 18th century. There is even evidence that they kept the annual Holy Days of God. The Newport congregation, split in two for the simple reason that they outgrew their facilities for keeping the feast of Tabernacles. The "Westerly" or "Hopkinton" congregation retained the original records-being recognized as the leading headquarters location.
The reason for this transfer is most interesting. Previous to this time, the "Westerly" or -'Hopkinton" site had to become the regular meeting place for 'a yearly meeting' of members from all over! It was such a meeting-on September 28 (Gregorian Calendar)-that the decision was made to establish the new congregation. Details are lacking but it is highly significant that this date falls during the feast of Tabernacles of that year.
The earliest of these annual meetings of which we now have record had been held in late May, 1684. Other annual meetings dates consistently fell either during fall Holy Day season or near Pentecost,see T he Seventh-Day Baptists in Europe and America, pp. 127, 150-152, 174, 602, 614. None of these meetings came in the summer or at Christmas or Easter time. This was not mere chance. God's people were at least in part, attempting to follow the pattern of the Holy Days he had ordained.
In the meantime a number of other congregations were being formed. The Sabbath keepers were mostly new converts and immigrants from England. And though they reorganized their relationship with the mother church in Rhode Island, distance made it necessary for the brethren in New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania to gather annual meetings in their own areas. These assemblies often sent greetings to each other by letters and by delegates. At these times, "the Sabbath with its general communion was indeed anhigh day" (The Seventh-Day Baptists in Europe and America, p.151, emphasis added).
Now from these centres in Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey that the Sabbath followed the tide of American migration westward. In 1801 the organization created what they called a "general conference" of all the Sabbath-keeping churches with a membership of over 1000 people spread across a few states.
"The primary objective motivating organization of the General Conference...the time had come when all seventh0day [sic] Baptist churches should be united in active and aggressive missionary work,' meaning specifically, propagation of the Sabbath message" (The Sabbath in Scripture and History, p.246). All the churches took unto themselves missionary societies to witness to people in their local communities. The church experienced great growth all over the United States including the west. Afterward in 1821 The Seventh-Day Baptist Missionary Magazine was launched, and the "result of these missionary activities was an increase of membership to 3,400 in 27 churches by the close of the decade" (ibid, p.246)
During the second half of the 19th century the Seventh-Day Baptists continued to experience a gradual increase in membership, until, by the centenary of the General Conference, in 1901, it stood at 9,257, since then it slowly declined, and in 1978 stood at 5,139. During the 19th century they operated seminaries, colleges, and one university-Alfred University-but these institutions had been either discontinued or secularized.
In the 19th century many sects came out of the Seventh-Day Baptists, like the Seventh-Day Adventists. A group came out of the Adventists called the Church of God Seventh-Day, and out of that organization came a man who shook the world by his preaching, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong.
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