From 1844 to the present, Adventist attitudes toward giving have been shaped by a plethora of articles, tracts, sermons, and Church Manuals, few of them in total agreement on the method of tithing. This body of literature, before 1880 largely apologetic and defensive, but since 1880 rather didactic, has itself been shaped by external events, chief among them the Panics of 1857 and 1873 and the Great Depression of the 1930s.
From 1844 to 1859, Sabbatarian Adventists had no plan for regular giving, but relied on freewill donations from interested hearers. For example, during three months of hard labor in Illinois in 1857, J.N. Loughborough received ten dollars in cash, a buffalo skin overcoat, and his board and room. During the winter of 1857-58, his listeners in Michigan gave him three ten-pound cakes of maple sugar, ten bushels of wheat, five bushels of apples, five bushels of potatoes, a peck of beans, one ham, half a hog, and $4.00 in cash. After spending the summer in Wisconsin, four months of preaching netted him only twenty dollars in cash plus board, room, and some traveling expenses. Another minister in 1859, after driving a team of horses on a 200-mile, three-week circuit, during which he preached fourteen times, returned home with only four dollars in his pocket. The inevitable result of this unsystematic giving was sporadic labor for the cause: have money, will preach; no money, must farm or do carpentry work.
Panic - Crisis - Dealings - Failure - Ohio
Then came the Panic of 1857, the first worldwide economic crisis. Triggered by the fraudulent dealings in and the subsequent failure of the Ohio Life Insurance and Trust Company, this financial panic caused scores of businesses to fail; the railroad industry declined and hundreds of workers were fired. Railroad stocks had seen increasingly speculative buying, which only made things worse when the...
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