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Spring 2012: The French Seventh-day Adventist Soldier
Publish date: Apr 25, 2012
Summary: A story of faithfulness told by Elder A.G. Daniels, as it was told to him by the young man himself. First printed in Francis Wilcox’ Seventh-Day Adventists in Time of War (1936): 182-186.
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He had been the secretary and stenographer to the president of the Latin Union Conference; and when he came of age, he was called into the service—the army. Everyone in France had to spend three years in the army. Brother B answered the call—there was no way out of it.
When he was called in by the captain to receive his instructions, he ventured to tell the captain that he was a Sabbathkeeper, and to ask if his work could not be arranged somehow so that he could keep the Sabbath.
The captain flew into a terrible passion and jumped to his feet, exclaiming, “Are you a fool? Do you think you are going to run the French army and boss the lot of us?”
Brother B said, “I don‘t wish to dictate to the army. That isn‘t it. And I don‘t think I am a fool either. I tell you plainly, I do this from a conscientious standpoint. I fear God, and believe the Bible, and am trying to live a Christian life, and I feel that it is by duty to obey that command- ment of God.”
The captain tried to show him that there was nothing in that, that when it
came to the requirements of the army a man had to obey them above everything else.
The young man replied, “I can‘t do that in disobedience to God.”
The commander told him to stop, go back to this barracks, and obey the orders and regulations of the army. He said, “If you don‘t do that—if you venture to disobey—we will send you to the fortress.”
Brother B replied, “Then I shall go, Captain.”
“Well,” the officer remarked, “you will only want to go once.”
But our brother said, “Captain, we might as well understand this thing now. I shall go to the fortress until I go to my death before I will work on the Sabbath. You may as well know, when you start in, that it isn‘t imprisonment in the fortress for one week, or one month, but for the rest of my life. That is where I stand.”
Then the captain declared, “I will draft you off into the African fortress. I will send you to the worst climate in Africa, and with the scum of the French army— with the worst lot of rascals we have.”
“Very well,” the young man said, “I can go there, but I cannot work on the Sabbath and disobey my God.”
The captain drove him out and said, “You will report Saturday for duty.”
But Sabbath morning, B took his Bible and went off through the woods, and stayed there all day, and read the Bible and prayed to God; and he settled it with the Lord. He went over the experience of death in the fortress and down in the African jungles, and he faced it all, and took his stand to live for God, no matter what the consequences might be.
He expected to be summoned before the captain Sunday morning, but he wasn‘t. Monday morning the captain called for him and said, “You were not on duty Saturday.”
He replied, “No I was not.”
The captain wanted to know where he was and what he was doing, and he told him. The captain was furious, and he said, “Now I am going to take you to the higher officer, and he will give you your sentence.”
So he led this young man in, and reported to the higher officer.
This officer looked at him kindly. “Well,” he said, “my man, what‘s the matter?” Brother B explained to him about the Sabbath.
The officer listened, and then said, “Do you think you can‘t do any work whatever on the Sabbath, on Saturday?”
He said, “No.”
“Well,” he said, “do you think that the French government can surrender to your whims?”
He answered, ”I don‘t know what they can do. I only know what I cannot do—I cannot work on the Sabbath day.”
After some conversation, the commander stepped out with the captain, and the young man remained in the room, and he prayed to the Lord to move on their hearts, that the right thing might be done. After a bit, the captain came back, but the commander went away.
The captain asked, “Well, how do you feel just now since seeing the officer?”
He answered, “I feel just the same.”
“You do not intend to do any work on Saturday?”
“You say you were a stenographer and secretary before you came here, and you can do that work now?”
“Yes, if I have a chance.”
Then the captain asked, “How would you like to be my stenographer and secretary?”
“Why,” he said, “Captain, I would like it fine, only no work on the Sabbath.”
“Very well,” he said, “that‘s taken for granted now.” And he made that boy his secretary, and gave him the Sabbath from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday night.
He had been there a full year, and his two weeks‘ holiday was to come in connection with our camp meeting: but as it was to begin on Friday, just as our meeting was about to close, he would get only one Sabbath, the meetings closing on Sunday.
He had his work all finished, so he went to the captain and told him about the camp meeting, and asked him if he would be willing to let him leave early and cut the time off the other end of his vacation. He said, “Captain, I would stay up all night tonight, and all night tomorrow night, and do everything necessary, if you would let me go.”
The captain said, “I haven‘t anything to do now, and you have everything finished, so you can go now.”
Brother B said, “Very well, Captain. I will come back as soon as it is over.”
But the captain replied, “Your regular time closes Saturday, and you are no good Saturday, and I don‘t want to be fussing around here Sunday; so you needn‘t come back until Monday.”
There he was, with the full time of his holiday and eight days over.
His story was a revelation to me of splendid Christian heroism, of real, firm, definite loyalty to God. Just a French boy, only twenty-two years old, and he would have died in the fortress or in the jungles of Africa rather than work on the Sabbath.
How I wish every young man and every young woman in our ranks in the United States had that fixedness of purpose, that loyalty, that conscience, that devotion to God!
I see some going away from the truth, away from God, for merest baubles, for the allurements of the world, picture shows and dress, and some for money, losing Heaven for these trifles.
But out in some of these lands we have men and women enduring all kinds of persecution for the cause of Christ.