1792 - 1872
Bates was a co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist
Church along with James and Ellen White. Perhaps
there was no more unlikely Seventh-day Adventist
preacher than Joseph Bates. When he was young
his family moved from Rochester, Massachusetts,
to the port city of Fairhaven, Massachusetts,
where he became fascinated with the sea. He set
out from Fairhaven at the age of 15 as a cabin
boy. He experienced shipwreck, capture, and forced
service in the British Navy, and for two-and-a-half
years was a prisoner of war in England, being
released in 1815. Bates eventually served as captain
of his own ship, beginning in 1820. In 1821 he
gave up smoking and chewing tobacco as well as
the use of profane language. He later quit using
tea and coffee and in 1843 became a vegetarian.
Bates retired from the sea in 1827 with $11,000,
a small fortune for the time. Converted during
his years at sea, after his retirement at age
35 Bates became associated with several reforms,
including temperance and antislavery. In 1839
he accepted the second advent preaching of William
Miller and became an active, successful Millerite
preacher. He eventually invested all of his money
in the advent movement.
Bates experienced the 1844 disappointment without
losing his faith. In 1845 he read a tract by T.
M. Preble on the Sabbath, published near Washington,
New Hampshire. Bates traveled there to study for
himself. On returning to Fairhaven, he met a friend,
Captain Hall, at the old bridge approach. Hall
asked him, “What’s the news, Captain
Bates?” He replied, “The news is that
the seventh day is the Sabbath.” Hall became
a convert to the Sabbath as well.
The next year, 1846, Bates wrote a tract of his
own about the Bible Sabbath. This tract came to
the attention of James and Ellen White around
the time of their marriage in August of that year.
They accepted the seventh-day Sabbath from studying
the Bible evidence for it.
In the tract Bates argued for beginning the Sabbath
at 6 p.m. Friday, and many Sabbath keepers, including
the Whites, did so for nearly ten years. Other
Adventists kept it from sunrise, sunset, or midnight.
In 1855 James White asked J. N. Andrews to make
a study of the Bible on the subject. At a meeting
in Battle Creek in November he presented his paper,
which supported sunset. After the meeting, Ellen
White had a vision confirming the result of his
Bible study, and unity on the subject was gained.
Joseph Bates often chaired the “Sabbath
conferences” of 1848-1850. He became more
closely associated with the Whites at that time.
He traveled to many places, including Battle Creek,
winning the first convert there. In his last year
of life he preached at least 100 times. He died
at the age of 80 at the Health Reform Institute
in Battle Creek and is buried at Monterey, Michigan.