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Crisis in Russia

Also in Russia there was a minority of Adventist believers who, because of religious convictions, refused to take part in the war. We read in an Adventist book:


Some time after the war broke out, our leaders in Russia learned that the government had sentenced about seventy of our brethren to ‘hard labor in chains, with terms of from two to sixteen years.’ Thousands of young men of other denominations were serving similar sentences. But God’s loving eye was following these suffering Christians. He saw their fettered hands and heard their cries of anguish. He brought deliverance in an unexpected way. The régime of the ages went down, a new one was set up, ‘and . . . the new government issued decrees for the liberation of conscientious objectors and their exemption from the using of arms.’" –Matilda Erickson Andross, Story of the Advent Message, pp. 173, 174.


Besides these 70, there must have been other true Adventists whose faith and courage were severely tried.


A new convert, whose heart was filled with the first love, proved to be a hero among other heroes of the faith. After he was released from prison, he told his story:


"I had tried to explain that it was against my religious principles to carry arms, but that I would serve my country to the best of my ability in any other capacity. But nobody paid any attention. At last our company was called out, and we were lined up before the long line of arms. The order was given to pick up guns. There was a gun lying before each man. All bent over at the command. Only I remained standing there erect, praying earnestly for sufficient grace to be given at this crucial moment.


"The officer quickly asked, ‘Did you not understand?’


"After an affirmative answer from me, he asked again, ‘Well, is it not necessary then to obey orders?’ and angrily, ‘What is this new idea?’


"By this time all eyes were fixed on me. I felt that I must reply, but as I began to speak, the officer commanded me to take the gun, no talking being necessary.


"‘I can not,’ I said.


"He quickly drew out his sword, holding it in a position to strike, and said angrily, ‘You know the law.’


"Then, turning to an underofficer, he said, ‘I shall kill him, for I must be obeyed.’


"I really expected the sword to come down on my neck in one fatal blow, and yet someway I was not one bit afraid. That uplifted sword meant no more to me than if it were a piece of paper. For some moments he maintained this position. Then as if he had a command to sheathe his sword–I doubt not that it was a real command from our heavenly Father–he lowered his sword and ordered some soldiers to take me to the lockup.


"It was February, and very cold. The prison to which I was taken was an old broken-down place. Everything was taken away from me but my Bible and an old, worn-out blanket, which was altogether insufficient covering when wrapped about me on the cold bare floor, with blasts of winter coming in through many crevices. I took a severe cold, and began coughing blood . . . and I was released without further questioning.


"Five or six days later all the soldiers in our barracks were awakened at night by an officer who brought in a notice that I was to appear at some place of trial and be judged. . . . I knew that according to law my sentence would be death, or lifelong imprisonment in Siberia, so I felt that I must witness for my Master now. Nearly every evening the boys asked me to talk to them. . . .


"One day the priest came in, and in every way tried to persuade me to change my views. When he saw that it was useless to argue longer, he became very angry, and addressed the soldiers around us, saying, ‘Children, do not listen to this man. Do not speak with him. He is a leper.’ But this simply amused the boys, and they were more eager to have me talk with them. . . .


"Finally, I was taken to be judged. The charge against me was read, namely, my refusal to bear arms. . . . My sentence read, ‘Eighteen years in Siberia. The first two in heavy chains. The next eight in heavy work and close confinement. The remaining eight in government employ.’ After these eighteen years I could return, but not to any city, and was to report to some police station every week. . . .


"I was immediately handcuffed and led to prison, waiting to be sent to Siberia. . . . [Meanwhile,] I was kept in very close confinement with the poorest, scantiest fare imaginable. . . .


"I was in this prison until April 29, 1917, when the government was changed, and the old despotic rule of the czar fell. . . . Under these new circumstances I met a dear brother of the same faith, also imprisoned on the same charge. We spent many happy hours together in Bible study and prayer. When our cases were settled, he was freed and sent home, and I was asked to continue my service in the army, but was given noncombatant work." –W. A. Spicer, Providences of the Great War, pp. 129—131.


During World War I, many Adventists went through trials and persecutions also in other ways which were not directly connected with the military question. And the Lord often showed His powerful hand to save the faithful ones who put their confidence entirely in Him.


A Russian general, for example, had threatened to banish all the Adventists from a Latvian town and to kill all those who decided to remain. It happened that on the very day that he had set to carry out his decision, he was deposed and was ordered to report to the headquarters. On that day, which was a Sabbath, the brethren were fasting and praying, and the Lord defeated the plans of that wicked general.


In another place in Russia, the judge, with the help of the local priest, had vowed that "no Adventist should be allowed to set his foot in the territory" under his jurisdiction. But the revolution broke out, and that wicked judge, who had wronged the people by his arbitrary rule, was seized by the mob and hanged on a tree.