Ellen G. White: The Australian Years: 1891-1900 (vol. 4)


Another Sunday-Work Arrest

Then came the Shannon case, which was given wide publicity in some of the Sydney newspapers. One carried the headline “Sunday-Labor Prosecution—‘Two Hours in the Stocks.’” A. G. Daniells opened his front-page article in the Bible Echo: 4BIO 164.3

After an interval of three months and one day, the Seventh-day Adventists have again been brought prominently before the people of Australia. Again one of their members has been summoned to court, prosecuted, fined, and sentenced to the stocks for working on Sunday.—August 20, 1894. 4BIO 164.4

Ellen White gave the details in a letter to S. N. Haskell: 4BIO 164.5

We are in the midst of stirring times just now. Brother Shannon, who lives in Sydney, has been arrested and prosecuted for working on Sunday. He owns houses, and builds houses. He is a stonemason, and in an out-of-the-way place was stirring up some mortar, in a quiet way that could offend no one, on Sunday, July 29. It seems that spies were watching him, and he was reported to the officers, and arrested. A fine was imposed in accordance with the law made by Charles II, and it was required that he either pay the fine or submit to confinement for two hours in the stocks.

Elder McCullagh and several other brethren were present at the trial. My secretary, Sister Emily Campbell, was also present to take shorthand notes of the proceedings.... The authorities of Sydney find that they have an elephant on their hands, and they are at a loss to know what to do in this affair. They do not covet the record that it would give them in carrying out a punishment invented under the profligate rule of Charles II.—Letter 30, 1894. 4BIO 164.6

Then she told of how, after McCullagh conversed with the magistrate and the officers in the courtroom, one of the officers left the room saying that “if that man kept on talking, he would convert them all.” Judicial officers in high places in the colony, embarrassed by the whole affair, found that an error had been made in imposing the fine (which Shannon had refused to pay, calling for the stocks). He had been sentenced to pay two shillings six pence when the law on the statute books called for five shillings. On this technicality the magistrates called for a remission of sentence under the two-hundred-year-old law. 4BIO 165.1

In the meantime Daniells had hastened from Melbourne to Sydney to fill speaking appointments in two halls. “Just now,” wrote Ellen White, “there is a wonderful stir in Sydney.” 4BIO 165.2

This prosecution has awakened an intense interest. The authorities are collecting the statements that were made in regard to the persecution of the Firth brothers in Parramatta, and they say that they will present these things to the next parliament, and work for the repeal of that miserable old law. [Note: Consideration was being given at this time to the formation of the federal commonwealth of australia, binding the several colonies together. With regard to a proposed constitution, Seventh-day Adventists pressed in with public meetings calling for religious liberty, and with petitions calling for total separation of Church and State. When a constitution was finally adopted in 1898, it contained clause 116, which read: “the commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the commonwealth.” The thirty-eight thousand signatures gathered by Seventh-day Adventists in victoria wielded an influence at the propitious time.—See Milton R. Hook, “the avondale school and adventist educational goals, 1894-1900,” pp. 24-26.]—Ibid. 4BIO 165.3

Issues of the Bible Echo carried reports from time to time of religious persecution elsewhere. Adventists in Tennessee and Georgia were imprisoned for violation of antiquated Sunday laws. H. P. Holser, in Basel, Switzerland, was arrested, fined, and imprisoned for allowing the operation of the publishing house on Sunday (see The Bible Echo, November 26; December 10 and 24, 1894). In one way or another, the work and doctrines of Seventh-day Adventists were coming before the general public. 4BIO 165.4

On September 10 the Bible Echo carried an announcement that the Australian camp meeting for 1894 would be held at Sydney, October 18-30; there would also be a ten-day workers’ meeting preceding the camp. The land selected was a five-acre grassy plot in Ashfield, five miles from the Sydney General Post Office. 4BIO 166.1

To advertise the evangelistic meetings, which was a new thing for that area, a special camp meeting issue of the Bible Echo, dated October 15, was published. During the workers’ meeting twenty young people distributed it to the homes in the various suburbs of Sydney. As they called on people, they gave a hearty invitation to attend the camp meeting and sold copies of the Echo. Some eight thousand copies were sold, and another eight thousand copies of the special cover, carrying an advertisement of the coming meeting, were given away. 4BIO 166.2

Articles in the Bible Echo urged attendance of church members. In the September 17 issue, A. G. Daniells, conference president—one local conference at that time took in all of Australia—pointed out to believers, many of them new church members: 4BIO 166.3

There are many reasons why this meeting should be held, and why we may look for most excellent results. 4BIO 166.4

When God established His people Israel in the land of Canaan, He knew the temptations that would be brought to bear upon them, and as one of the safeguards against their being led into apostasy, He established three annual gatherings at which they were to meet together for praise and worship, to recount His mercies and His deliverances, and to encourage one another in the way of obedience.... 4BIO 166.5

There are many educational advantages to be enjoyed at these general convocations, which to those persons who wish to become laborers with God in the work of uplifting fallen humanity will be of inestimable value.... 4BIO 166.6

Therefore we say to our brethren, Prepare for the camp meeting; begin at once; work in faith, and let as large a number as possible receive its benefits. 4BIO 166.7

As church members came in on Friday, October 19, they found more than fifty white canvas family tents among and under the shade trees. There were sixty-two by the end of the first week. The tents were arranged in rows, with streets named after the Reformers, as was often done in America. The large pavilion would seat between six hundred and eight hundred persons. 4BIO 166.8

The opening meeting was held on Friday night with a discourse from J. M. Cole, recently come from Norfolk Island. Sabbath morning there were 125 adults in the senior Sabbath school. These were quickly grouped into twenty-one classes. 4BIO 167.1

A. G. Daniells spoke Sabbath morning, reading as his text, “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you” (James 4:8). In the afternoon Ellen White spoke. Far from boasting or calling attention to herself, but ever eager to know whether her ministry was effective, she wrote of her observation to O. A. Olsen concerning this Sabbath-afternoon meeting: 4BIO 167.2

One man whose hair is white with age said, “I never heard such preaching as that woman gave us since I was born into the world. These people make Christ the complete center and system of truth.”—Letter 56, 1894. 4BIO 167.3

A large sign over the entrance to the enclosed grounds read, “Whosoever Will, Let Him Come” (Manuscript 1, 1895). In response to the advertising, Sabbath afternoon the attendance began to accelerate, and Ellen White reported to Olsen: 4BIO 167.4

On Sunday we had an immense congregation. The large tent was full, there was a wall of people on the outside, and the carriages filled with people in the street. The tents are a great surprise and curiosity to the people, and indeed, these white cotton houses interspersed among the green trees are a beautiful sight.—Letter 56, 1894. 4BIO 167.5

Fully a thousand were present as the afternoon discourse began, and, reported W. C. White, “before its close there were upwards of two thousand on the ground.” He too noted the drawing features of the experience unique to so many: 4BIO 167.6

Although many had apparently come from feelings of curiosity, the greater part of this multitude gathered in and about the large tent and listened attentively to Mrs. White as she presented the love of God and its effect upon the heart and character.—The Bible Echo, November 5, 1894. 4BIO 167.7

The total conference membership throughout Australia was 872; 170 of these were camping on the grounds. Ministerial workers watched with deep interest the size of the crowds attending the weekend and evening meetings. W. C. White reported at midcamp: 4BIO 168.1

The evening meetings have been well attended. The large pavilion, which will accommodate from six to eight hundred persons, is filled every night, and sometimes there are two or three hundred standing outside.—Ibid. 4BIO 168.2

In her diary Ellen White put it this way: 4BIO 168.3

On Saturday and Sunday, and during the evenings of the week, the grounds were thronged with interested spectators. The people listened in rapt attention to discourses on the coming of Christ, spiritualism, theosophy, the third angel's message, the love of God, temperance, practical godliness, and themes especially related to our time.”—Manuscript 1, 1895.

She listed the principal speakers as Pastors Corliss, Daniells, Cole, Colcord, Hare, Baker, and herself. 4BIO 168.4