The Sardis Church Era

By COGwriter

Sardis is the fifth of the seven churches listed in the Book of Revelation. The Sardis Church apparently became predominant during the early seventeenth century.

Ruins of Ancient Sardis
Ruins of Ancient Sardis

Jesus had the Apostle John record the following about the Sardis Church:

1 "And to the angel of the church in Sardis write,

'These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: "I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. 2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. 3 Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. 4 You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. 5 He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. 6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." ' (Revelation 3:1-6, NKJV throughout unless otherwise indicated).

It probably needs to be emphasized that since Jesus taught that the gates of the grave would not prevail against the true church (Matthew 16:18), that the true church never actually died out, even though some names associated with it changed (Revelation 2-3).

Sixteenth, Seventeenth, and Eighteenth Centuries

At the end of the time of Thyatira's dominance, the Sardis Church began to emerge.

John Ogwyn reported:

By the end of the 1500s, congregations that the world labeled "Sabbatarian Anabaptists" had emerged from remnants of the Waldensians and were growing in Central Europe, Germany and England. They were termed Sabbatarian because they taught and observed the seventh-day Sabbath. They were called Anabaptists, meaning "re-baptizers," because they refused to accept as Christians those who had merely been sprinkled as babies. They taught that baptism was only for adults who had come to believe the Gospel and had repented of their sins (cf. Acts 2:38) (Ogwyn, J. God's Church Through the Ages. Booklet. 2003).

This is approximately 1260 years after the Smyrnaeans fled because of of edicts of fourth century Roman Emperors, such as Constantine's Edict Against Heretics of 331 A.D. (it appears that around 1600 the COG no longer felt that it needed to be fleeing, but then began to come out in the open). (Note many were called "Anabaptists," sometimes shortened to Baptists, because they did not accept infant baptism, hence required re-baptism, or anabaptism.)

According to The Catholic Encyclopedia, the Anabaptists believed that salvation would be offered to all mankind:

The doctrine of apokatastasis viewed as a belief in a universal salvation is found among the Anabaptists ... (Batiffel, Pierre. Transcribed by Elizabeth T. Knuth. Apocatastasis. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume I. Published 1907. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, March 1, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

It should be noted that the COGs do not teach universal salvation in the sense that ALL will be saved, but in the sense that ALL will have the opportunity for salvation and ultimately nearly everyone will be saved (please see free online booklet Universal OFFER of Salvation, Apokatastasis: Can God save the lost in an age to come? Hundreds of scriptures reveal God's plan of salvation and/or the article Hope of Salvation: How the Continuing Church of God Differs from Protestantism).

German Anabaptists ... Carlstadt, a Sabbath keeper, said. Another prevailing feature of their system was a belief in immediate or prophetic inspiration, which if it did not supercede the written word, assimilated them to its author. Notice even there, the test of a prophetwas the written word! (Blackwell D. A HANDBOOK OF CHURCH HISTORY. A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of the Ambassador College Graduate School of Theology, April 1973, pp. 166, 167)

So, prophets were something that they recognized. For more on prophets, check out the article How To Determine If Someone is a True Prophet of God.

The Catholic Encyclopedia also noted:

Persons rejecting infant baptism are frequently mentioned in English history in the sixteenth century. We learn of their presence in the island through the persecutions they endured. As early as 1535 ten Anabaptists were put to death, and the persecution continued throughout that century. The victims seem to have been mostly Dutch and German refugees (Baptists).

The same article also stated that some 'Anabaptist' groups of them practiced "feet washing" (see article on Passover).

Seventh day Sabbath-keeping was causing controversy in England in 1584  (Andrews J.N. in History of the Sabbath, 3rd editon, 1887. Reprint Teach Services, Brushton (NY), 1998, p. 485). The following is from a writing from a Catholic Priest pubished in 1618:

John Traske and the other Puritans in their ceremonial and precise manner of observing the Sabaoth, are superstitious imitators of the Jews, our saviour’s adversaries ... (Falconer John. A Breife Refutation of John Traskes Judaical and Novel Fantyces.  St. Omer, 1618,  p. 31. As cited in Parker, Parker Kenneth L. The English Sabbath: A Study of Doctrine and Discipline from the Reformation to the Civil War.  Cambridge University Press, 2002, p. 166)

John Traske seems to have at least partially kept something on Passover as the Days of Unleavened Bread as, according to the same priest, John Traske wrote about observing:

‘the fourteenth of the March moon’ to coincide with the Jewish Passover, and should be followed by the eating of unleavened bread for seven days. (Falconer, pp. 57-58.  As cited in Ball, B.  Seventh Day Men: Sabbatarians and Sabbatarianism in England and Wales, 1600-1800, 2nd edition.  James Clark & Co., 2009, pp. 49-51)

It is also reported that there was a sabbath-keeping church that apparently became established in the United Kingdom in the late 15o0s/early 1600s known as the Mill Yard Church (that John Traske was the pastor of from 1617-1619):


Origin. Some have supposed that this church owes its origin to the labors of John James, who was martyred Oct. 19, 1661. President Daland goes back as far as about 1580 (THE SABBATH IN ENGLAND (A.) BRIEF HISTORY OF KNOWN CHURCHES. Reprinted from "Seventh Day Baptists in Europe and America" Volume 1, 1910 pp 39-63).

Although Traske later apostasized, he was followed by several faithful pastors. Even though those associated with Mill Yard in the late 20th century called Passover communion, notice this Mill Yard Church observed Passover annually and at the biblical time through the early 20th century:

The 1926 Seventh Day Baptist Manual notes that the "Mill Yard Church of London ... celebrates it but once a year, at the time of the Passover of the Jewish Church" (Nickels R. Six Papers on the History of the Church of God. Sharing & Giving, Neck City (MO), 1993, p. 83).

According to Andrew Nugent Dugger and C.O. Dodd, the Mill Yard Church and the Church of God, Seventh Day (CG7) had essentially the same doctrines in the 1930s, and thus he taught that the Mill Yard Church was part of the spiritual ancestry of CG7:

It was the pleasure of one of the authors of this book to spend some months during 1931 and 1932 with the Mill Yard church in London, and we were caused to rejoice, upon finding them advocating the same doctrine on the great essentials, in perfect harmony with the Church of God in America, and throughout the world...The Mill Yard church in London being the oldest Sabbath-keeping church of which we have a definite record, and at this date, 1935, their doctrine agrees with that of the churches of God throughout America (Dugger AN, Dodd CO. A History of True Religion, 3rd ed. Jerusalem, 1972 (Church of God, 7th Day). 1990 reprint, pp. 241,273).

Essentially, in the 1600s there were several, but small, Sabbath-keeping congregations in England. As well as one or two established in the Americas (with one in Newport, Rhode Island by 1671;

According to I. C. Fletcher: "The Baptist historian Griffiths reports that the earliest Sabbath keepers were at Newport, Rhode Island, in 1644." From these groups, many became known as Sabbatarian Anabaptists or Seventh Day Baptists (SDBs). And, irrespective of what they were called, originally, most of those groups tended to be loosely affiliated. Some of them kept COG doctrines, while others were more Protestant in approach.

Notice a that in 1719 England, John Ozell, a non-Sabbath-keeper wrote the following about some of the Sabbath-keepers:

… People, who … go by the name Sabbatarian make Profession of expecting a Reign of a Thousand Years … These Sabbatarians are so call’d, because they will not remove the Day of Rest from Saturday to Sunday … They administer Baptism only to adult People … The major part of them will not eat Pork, nor blood … their outward conduct is pious and Christian-like (Ozell J. M. Mission Observations in His Travels over England. 1719. As cited in Ball, p. 9).

It has been reported that:

The first Sabbath-keeper in America was Stephen Mumford ... came as a missionary from London ... in 1664, and brought the opinion with him that the whole of the ten commandments, as they were delivered from Mount Sinai, were moral and immutable; and that it was the anti-Christian power which thought to change times and laws, that changed the Sabbath from the seventh to the first day of the week (Andrews, pp. 498-499).

Now, it is possible that there were other Sabbath-keepers who came to the Americas prior to Stephen Mumford.

More on 'Anabaptists'

It may be of interest to note that the Anabaptists were condemned by the Lutherans because they did not support infant baptism, taught one could reject salvation, taught that Christians should not be soldiers, taught that there would be an end to punishments, and that Jesus would rule with His people on the earth:

Article IX: Of Baptism. Of Baptism they teach that it is necessary to salvation, and that through Baptism is offered the grace of God, and that children are to be baptized who, being offered to God through Baptism are received into God's grace. They condemn the Anabaptists, who reject the baptism of children...

Article XII: ... They condemn the Anabaptists, who deny that those once justified can lose the Holy Ghost...

Article XVI: Of Civil Affairs. Of Civil Affairs they teach that lawful civil ordinances are good works of God, and that it is right for Christians to bear civil office, to sit as judges, to judge matters by the Imperial and other existing laws, to award just punishments, to engage in just wars, to serve as soldiers, to make legal contracts, to hold property, to make oath when required by the magistrates, to marry a wife, to be given in marriage. They condemn the Anabaptists who forbid these civil offices to Christians.

Article XVII: Of Christ's Return to Judgment. Also they teach that at the Consummation of the World Christ will appear for judgment and will raise up all the dead; He will give to the godly and elect eternal life and everlasting joys, but ungodly men and the devils He will condemn to be tormented without end. They condemn the Anabaptists, who think that there will be an end to the punishments of condemned men and devils. They condemn also others who are now spreading certain Jewish opinions, that before the resurrection of the dead the godly shall take possession of the kingdom of the world, the ungodly being everywhere suppressed. (The Confession of Faith: Which Was Submitted to His Imperial Majesty Charles V. At the Diet of Augsburg in the Year 1530. by Philip Melanchthon, 1497-1560. Translated by F. Bente and W. H. T. Dau. Published in: Triglot Concordia: The Symbolical Books of the Ev. Lutheran Church. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, pp. 37-95.)

It should also be noted that Lutherans and other Protestant leaders considered that those who relied on the Bible alone for doctrine promoted "ancient heresies" (Brown HOJ. Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), 1988, p. 335).

Furthermore, Anabaptists were also denounced by other 16th century Protestant leaders such as Jacob Würben of Biel because they stated that they got certain doctrines from the Book of Revelation (Guggisberg HR.  Jabob Würben of Biel: A thoughtful admonisher against Ludwig Hätzer and the Anabaptists. Mennonite Quarterly Review, VOl. XLVI, July 1972, pp. 239-255). The teachings of the Book of Revelation were NOT popular with the early Protestant Reformers and were often condemned by them (for Martin Luther's view of the Apocalypse, please see the article Sola Scriptura or Prima Luther? What Did Martin Luther Really Believe About the Bible?).

In the sixteenth century, "Anabaptists" taught Millenarianism and were condemned by Roman Catholics for that belief (Birch D. Trial Tribulation & Triumph. Queenship Publishing, Goleta (CA), 1996, p. lvii).

Look at this admission from the Protestant scholar and theologian H. Brown:

Although classical theology is certainly not without its problems, historically it is almost always the case that the appeal to the Bible alone...leads to the reemergence of ancient heresies ...The Reformation began with the slogan "To the sources!" and sought to deal a fatal blow to the place of church tradition in shaping life and faith ... Despite their efforts not to be influenced by the authority of tradition, each of the major Reformation churches found itself borrowing from the past and building up a traditionalism of its own...when the Anabaptists and other radicals discovered Scripture to be teaching things the Lutherans found detestable, Lutherans learned the usefulness of tradition...(Brown HOJ. Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), 1988, pp. 335,350-351).

It should be noted that the above is not limited to one Protestant scholar, even Martin Luther truly did not believe in rallying cry sola scriptura (an article of related interest may be Sola Scriptura or Prima Luther? What Did Martin Luther Really Believe About the Bible?).

But the true church persisted in those centuries.

The Church in the Americas and the British Isles

Here is a report about the Rhode Island church:

The church in Rhode Island was founded the year 1671, and Ephreta, Pennsylvania, May, 1725, with numerous other congregations throughout the eastern states as previously mentioned in this work. During these early colonial days congregations were at first isolated because of distance and a lack of means of travel with no roads between them. Thus being isolated from fellowship with one another, we find companies in one place called the Church of Christ, and the Church of God, while in other communities they were simply called "Sabbatarian Congregations," but the belief was practically the same. They stood for the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, observing the true Sabbath, keeping the Lord's Supper yearly on the 14th of the first month, with other tenets of faith in harmony with the true faith today. Owing to the isolation of these scattered companies they were known by different names which evidently gives rise to the Scriptural statement relative to the Sardis period, "I know thy works, that thou hast a NAME," Revelation 3:1 (Dugger AN, Dodd CO. A History of True Religion, 3rd ed. Jerusalem, 1972 (Church of God, 7th Day). 1990 reprint, pp. 252-253).

Notice that A.N. Dugger and C.O. Dodd considered the above church to be part of the Sardis Church of Revelation 3:1.

Regarding another of those early English Sabbath-keeping congregations it was noted:

An interesting article appeared, April 13. 1901, in the Birmingham Weekly Post, from which the following is an extract:

... at Natton, in the parish of Ashchurch. There the congregation meets on Saturday mornings when all their neighbors are about their secular occupations...The existence of the sect is known to but few people, and rarely does a stranger make an addition to the regular congregation of half a dozen or eight persons. But it is certainly an interesting fact that such a body should have existed for two centuries and a half. The curious in such matters would do well to store up a record of the sect before it passes out of existence altogether. There appears to be little attempt to propagate the faith, and without such effort the number of adherents is not likely to increase. The tiny one of the oddest things in the ecclesiastical world. Not merely is the gathering inconvenient, one would think, but the place of assemblage is a remote corner -- in a farmyard."

How could there be anything but decline under the circumstances...? (THE SABBATH IN ENGLAND (A.) BRIEF HISTORY OF KNOWN CHURCHES. Reprinted from "Seventh Day Baptists in Europe and America" Volume 1, 1910 pp 39-63).

Hence, for 250 years, there was at least one small, but ineffective, group in England.

A group called the Lollards tended to keep the seventh day sabbath in the British Isles (Ball B.  Seventh Day Men: Sabbatarians and Sabbatarianism in England and Wales, 1600-1800, 2nd edition.  James Clark & Co., 2009, pp. 30-31), and they may have influenced others to do so.

Here is some information about one of the earliest groups in America:

In the year 1705, a church of Sabbath-keepers was organized at Piscataway, N.J. The first record in the old church record book, after the articles of faith, was the following statement, proving beyond all question that these early churches retained the Scriptural name of the Church of God. The record reads:

"The Church of God keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus Christ, living in Piscataway and Hopewell, in the province of New Jersey, being assembled with one accord, at the house of Benjamin Martin, in Piscataway, the 19th day of August, 1705 -- we did then, and with one mind, choose our dearly beloved Edward Dunham, who is faithful in the Lord, to be our elder and assistant, according to the will of God; whom we did send to New England to be ordained; who was ordained in the church-meeting in Westerly, Rhode Island, by prayer and laying on of hands, by their elder, William Gibson, the eighth of September, 1705." -- Idem, p. 121, Vol. 2, No. 3.

The faith of the Piscataway church reads as follows:

"I. We believe that unto us there is but one God, the Father, and one Lord Jesus Christ, who is the mediator between God and mankind, and that the Holy Ghost is the Spirit of God. I Corinthians 3:6, I Timothy 2:5, II Timothy 3:6, II Peter 1:21.

"II. We believe that all the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, given by inspiration, are the Word of God -- II Peter 1:19, 20, 21, II Timothy 3:16, Mark 7:13, I Thessalonians 2:13, Acts 4:29, 31 -- and are the rule of faith and practice.

"III. We believe that the ten commandments, which were written on two tables of stone by the finger of Cod, continue to be the rule of righteousness unto all men. Matthew 5:17, 18, 19, Malachi 4:4, James 1:21, Romans 7:25, Romans 3:21, Romans 13:8, 9, 10, Ephesians 6:2.

"IV. We believe the six principles recorded in Heb. 6:1, 2, to be the rule of faith and practice.

"V. We believe that the Lord's Supper ought to be administered and received in all Christian churches. Luke 2:19, I Corinthians. 11:23, 26.

"VI. We believe that all Christian churches ought to have church officers in them, as elders, and deacons. Titus 1:5, Acts 6:3.

"VII. We believe that all persons thus believing ought to be baptized in water by dipping or plunging, after confession is made by them of their faith in the above said things. Mark 1:4, 5, Acts 2:38, Acts 8:37, Romans 6:3, 4, Colossians 2:12.

"VIII. We believe that a company of sincere persons, being formed in the faith and practices of the above said things, may truly be said to be the Church of Christ. Acts 2:41, 42.

"IX. We give up ourselves unto the Lord and one another, to be guided and governed by one another, according to the Word of God. I Corinthians 8:5, Colossians 2:19, Psalm 84:1, 2, 4-10, Psalm 133:1." -- Idem, pages 120,121, Vol. 2, No. 3. (Dugger AN, Dodd CO. A History of True Religion, 3rd ed. Jerusalem, 1972 (Church of God, 7th Day). 1990 reprint, pp. 275-277).

Now although the Seventh Day Baptists claim that the above church was part of them, the fact that it originally taught that they were part of "The Church of God", left out the term "Trinity", and stated that "the Holy Ghost is the Spirit of God" suggests that they were NOT what are NOW called Seventh Day Baptists--Seventh Day Baptists now teach the trinity--it is the anti-trinitarian Church of God that continues to teach that the Holy Spirit is simply the Spirit or Power of God.

Perhaps it should be mentioned here that in 1851, a Seventh Day Baptist author, while tracing the history of her church through Semi-Arians in Armenia (see Davis, Tamar. A General History of the Sabbatarian Churches. 1851; Reprinted 1995 by Commonwealth Publishing, Salt Lake City, p. 20), also indicated that they once believed in Church eras (ibid, p. 31).

In the Continuing Church of God, we teach that the laying on of hands began in the New Testament church with the apostles with continued to successive church eras (see also the article: see Laying on of Hands).

The following mentions perhaps the first Sabbatarians in Canada:

The first Sabbath-observers in Canada...were brought to Quebec against their will. The German Sabbatarians were pacifist fur traders in the Shenandoah Valley. In March 1757 a French priest led a part of Indians to attack the German Sabbatarians ... Most of the German Seventh-Day Baptists were killed and scalped ... Only three Germans were taken as prisoners ... They eventually were taken to France ... they died (Neumann B. A History of the Seventh-Day Sabbath Among Christians in Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America. Bible Sabbath Association, Gillette (WY), 2004, p. 28).

It may also be of interest to note that some Sabbatarians in New Jersey encouraged footwashing (see Passover) as they wrote in 1750:

And now, dear brethren, we shall use the freedom to acquaint you with one thing, and do heartily desire to recommend it to your serious and Christian consideration, and that is about the duty to wash one another's feet...1750 (Randolph C.F. A History of the Seventh Day Baptists in West Virginia, 1905. Reprint 2005. Heritage Books, Westminster (MD), pp. 15-16).

Furthermore, this practice was also followed in Virginia and other churches in West Viriginia and "the Middle Island Church adopted it in 1870" (ibid, p. 15).

The Seventh Day Baptist Changes

Yet, in the 1700s and throughout the 1800s, changes set in. The SDB movement overtook many in America and elsewhere. And sadly, many of those that stayed in certain Sabbatarian churches did become SDBs, and held less of the truth.

How can this be shown?

Well, the SDBs have basically documented several changes and doctrinal differences in their books.

Those that tended to be "Seventh Day Baptists" complained about some of the differences among Sabbatarians:

That there were members of the Church of God among the Sabbatarians which organized as the Seventh Day Baptist Churches in America, we know, and from the records of the Baptist people themselves, which are very accurate, we learn the truth of this fact. A recorded letter of one William Davis, a Sabbatarian Baptist, states the following:

"Now all this enmity among seventh-day men arose against me originally from a noted seventh-day man and soul sleeper in this country, who above twenty years ago opposed me about my principles of immortality of human souls, and afterward proceeded to differ with me about my faith in Christ and the Trinity, who, having poisoned several other seventh-day men with the mortal and atheistical notion, and set them against me, he secretly conveyed this drench over to Westerly to the persons beforenamed, who, complying with him in their judgments in the Socinian and Anti-Trinitarian error, drank it greedily down before I came among them . . . ." -- Idem, p. 108, Vol. 2, No. 3. (Dugger AN, Dodd CO. A History of True Religion, 3rd ed. Jerusalem, 1972 (Church of God, 7th Day). 1990 reprint, p. 277).

My great-grandfather, William Davis, came from England about 1685, and preached to the Seventh Day Baptist Church in Westerly, now Hopkinton—the first Seventh Day Baptist Church in America, except the one at Newport, R. I., which was constituted some time previous. The Church in Hopkinton was constituted in 1061. He preached for this Church a year or two, then made arrangements to go back to England, and went to Newport and engaged a passage; but before the ship sailed, the Church sent a Committee and persuaded him not to go; so he returned to Hopkinton and preached for them until some of the Church fell out with him, because he preached the doctrine of the Trinity. Whereupon he left them and went to Pennsylvania, and some of the time in New Jersey, and died somewhere out in that country. (Stillman W. Miscellaneous Compositions in Poetry and Prose. F.H.Bacon, New-London 1852; pp. 3-4. Original from the New York Public Library Digitized Nov 15, 2006).

Thus, there were Sabbatarians who held to COG doctrines such as that the soul is not immortal and that God is not a trinity. It appears that those in the USA who kept COG doctrines in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were those whose descendants became part of the organized Church of God movement later.

Another difference between those Sabbatarians who remained in the COG and those who were SDBs was the use of titles, both of the church and its leadership.

The COGs always tended to call themselves part of the "Church of God" or "Church of Christ." Those who became the SDBs also seem to have used those same terms until towards the end of the 1700s, when they began to refer to themselves officially as "Seventh Day Baptists."

Notice the following:

The Church of God keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus Christ, living in Piscataway and Hopewell, in the province of New Jersey, being assembled with one accord, at the house of Benjamin Martin, in Piscataway, the 19th day of August, 1705 (Dugger AN, Dodd CO. A History of True Religion, 3rd ed. Jerusalem, 1972 (Church of God, 7th Day). 1990 reprint, p. 275).

This is the book of records of the settlement and proceedings of the Church of Christ...In October...1745 (Randolph C.F. A History of the Seventh Day Baptists in West Virginia, 1905. Reprint 2005. Heritage Books, Westminster (MD), pp. 11-12).

It is important to note that even though the author of the reference referred to the above church as SDB, they did not use that term in 1745.

But that changed. By 1775, that church called itself "the Seventh Day Baptist Church inhabiting in Shrewsbury Township" (ibid, p. 28).

It should be added here that the 1745 writings refer to church leaders with titles such as "Elder" and "ministering brother", and never "Reverend."

While the COGs still use the term "elder" and those that became the SDBs originally used the term "elder," this appeared to change with the SDBs in the latter half of the 1700s.

For example, look at this quote from the official records of the Shrewsbury church:

John Davis, chosen elder, July 19, 1746...Rebecca Brand was the first baptized after brother John Davis' decease, and was received as a member of the church, November 11, about the year 1758, Rev. Jonathan Dunham being the administrator (Randolph C.F. A History of the Seventh Day Baptists in West Virginia, 1905. Reprint 2005. Heritage Books, Westminster (MD), pp. 31-32).

It seems then, from the latter portion of the 1700s and beyond, those that were SDBs called their leaders "Reverend." Also, even though the original records refer to John Davis as an elder, the SDBs now refer to him as "Rev. John Davis" (ibid, p. 398).

Yet, the Bible teaches:

He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name (Psalm 111:9. KJV).

Since it is God's name that is to be revered, it is not proper to say a human's name is reverend.

As mentioned previously, the records of the Piscataway church shows that, in 1750 it did not call itself Seventh Day Baptist, it referred to itself as "The Church of God", and it called its top leaders by the term "elders."

Another changes that occurred within the SBD movement was that although their original church buildings looked like houses, eventually, most of them had steeples (no COG I am aware of has ever built a church with a steeple as we tend to consider this a hold-over from sun-god worship). The book A History of the Seventh Day Baptists in West Virginia has church sketches and/or photos on pages 74a, 100a, 160a, 208a, 214a, 238a, and 242a without steeples, but shows steeples on pages 104a, 106a, 246a, and 344a. This suggests that some of the SDBs wanted to appear more like Protestants.

I should also add that I do not know what the interiors of SBD churches now look like (the two I tried to visit ended up being rented halls), but in the early times, they contained no crosses or other images (ibid, pages 38a and 102a). The COGs do not have crosses or other images involved in their worship services.

The SBDs were not an especially large church:

The S.B. Baptist General Conference was organized in 1802 ..., it included ...1130 members ... The Conference now embraces some eighty churches and about eight thousand members (Andrews p. 502).

The "now" would have been 1873. As it became more Protestant, the SDBs grew some.

It appears that by 1808, many SDBs considered Protestants to be true Christian brothers (Randolph C.F. A History of the Seventh Day Baptists in West Virginia, 1905. Reprint 2005. Heritage Books, Westminster (MD), pp. 138-140). This differs from the COGs as we do not see it that way--we tend to consider most Protestants to be sincere people who do not fully understand the truth of God or the plan of God (an article of related interest might be Hope of Salvation: How the Continuing Church of God differ from most Protestants).

In 1825, the SDB church also temporarily put out of the ministry, one who taught against the immortality of the soul (ibid, p. 87). The COGs have always taught against the pagan doctrine of the immortality of the soul (An article of related interest may be Did Early Christians Believe that Humans Possessed Immortality?).

Another aspect of the SDB movement was military service. By the time of the revolutionary war, even some of its ministry decided to become part of the military (ibid, p. 45). This was not the practice of those in the COG (a related article of interest may be Military Service and the COGs).

Hence by the 1800s, major non-biblical changes had taken place within the Sabbatarian churches. But not all in Sardis were taken in by it.

Richard Nickels made this point about the SDBs and history:

Seventh Day Baptists cannot validly claim exclusive "ownership" of the history of Sabbatarians. SDB's today do not agree doctrinally with their Sabbatarian ancestors! Actually, today's faithful Church of God brethren are doctrinally closer to early English and American Sabbath-keepers than are today's liberal SDB's. Early American Sabbatarians rejected Trinity and immortal soul teaching, eschewed Christmas and Easter, promoted their faith much more than SDB's do today, and traced their spiritual ancestry directly to English Lollards, Waldensians, and the first century Church...The oldest exiting Seventh Day Baptist Church, the Mill Yard Church in London, England, began during the mid 1600's. The Mill Yard Church has apparently always kept the "Lord's Supper" on the fourteenth day of the first Hebrew month, but almost no American SDB churches have followed this practice. Today, SDB's accept Christmas, the Trinity, and immortal soul teaching. (Nickels R. Six Papers on the History of the Church of God. Sharing & Giving, Neck City (MO), 1993, p. 83).

On June 12, 1922, the prince of Ethiopia, Wixzezyxzrd Challoughezilzise, accompanied by his secretary, Elder Robert B. St. Clair (an Adventist turned Seventh Day Baptist), arrived at Stanberry, Missouri, where he spoke to audiences for several nights. How he came to visit Stanberry is unknown. The prince was well-educated, and quite a musician. In 1922 it was said that Ethiopia kept the Sabbath as a nation, and held many tenets of faith similar to the Church of God. While in Stanberry, the Prince was presented with two Bible Home Instructors (which have Church of God doctrine arranged according to subject in a question and answer form), which he apparently prized highly. From Stanberry he went to Marion, Iowa (previous headquarters of the Church of God), on his way to Chicago, from where he expected to return to Ethiopia. From St. Clair, Dugger was given "first insight" into the true facts of church history. Dugger learned that the Ethiopian church were Sabbath-keepers and dated their origin from seven hundred years before Moses, "and also that they called themselves the Church of Christ and Church of God." His curiosity piqued, Dugger learned from St. Clair that the Seventh Day Baptist church also called themselves "Church of God" during their early history in America, and showed Dugger certain books where this could be verified. Dugger learned that even as late as 1926, the name Church of God was on some old "Seventh Day Baptist" church houses in the East. Dugger came to conclude "that the Church of God does not date its history back to 1861 and then follow through the Seventh Day Baptist channels, but rather through that company of people who held to the same name we hold today and consequently our history is perpetuated without a break." (Nickels R. History of the Seventh Day Church of God. Sharing & Giving, Neck City (MO), 1988, p. 120).

The above partially explains why A.N. Dugger and others have realized that the SDBs claims certain ancestor groups that held closer to COG doctrines than current SBD ones.

Perhaps it should be mentioned that in at least one group (called the Pine Grove or South Fork Church) that became an SDB congregation in 1839-1842, some affiliated with it adopted practices more like the COGs in the later 1800s, such as Passover on the 14th day of Nisan (Randolph, p. 202), footwashing (ibid, p. 15), the avoidance of swine as food (ibid, p. 203), etc. and it split in 1871 (ibid, p. 202) and the SDB portion became known as the Ritchie Church. The "mother group" (still known as South Fork) did not apply to be part of the SDB South-Eastern Association when it formed in 1872 (ibid, p. 204), however eventually its more prominent members left and it became part of the SDBs (ibid, p. 228).

Here is a 21st century report on the SDBs:

Are Christians wrong to worship on Sunday when the biblical Sabbath is Saturday? Rob Appel, executive director of the Seventh Day Baptist General Conference answers with a question of his own: “What day did Christ go to church? Saturday. OK, let’s be Christ like.”

... Saturday worship is not a definitive marker over which the church is willing to fight.

“It’s not a big thing,” said Appel ... “We are Baptist,” Appel said. “We just have a different day of worship”... North American churches once called Sabbath Baptists organized as a Conference in 1802. Although “we’ve been around a long time ... we’re small.” Appel attributes stunted growth in part to “our own fear.”

Early members were persecuted because of their Sabbath worship, which prompted “a tendency to keep to ourselves.”

“That mentality permeated from generation to generation,” he said. “We don’t feel that anymore ...”...
Seventh Day Baptists leave women’s ordination up to the local church. The Conference has issued no statement on ordination, although it has accredited some female pastors ...

The Sabbath theology takes second place, or third ...

“We’re Baptists first,” Kersten said. “When I send kids off to college, I encourage them to keep the Sabbath and find a good Sunday Baptist Church.” He said there are “so many theological problems” in other Sabbatarian groups that “Baptist” is more important than Saturday worship. (Jameson N.  'Baptist' comes first for Seventh Day Baptists.  Associated Baptist Press, June 29, 2011.  This article was commissioned by the North American Baptist Fellowship. viewed 07/04/2011 )

There is no historical evidence that early SDBs ordained any women, and there is evidence that they would take stronger stands on the Sabbath that they now do.  The "theological problems"  that they have with groups like the Continuing Church of God seem to include the fact that we have retained historical Christian beliefs on matters such as the Godhead as well as other doctrines that the SBDs have abandoned.

Sadly, compromise and non-biblical changes have occurred throughout history. The SDBs bear little doctrinal relationship now to their spiritual ancestors. They, like many groups, have become essentially Protestant as they have adopted many of the Greco-Roman doctrines.  In this century they also seem to publicly admit that.

Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

During the nineteenth century, the COG clearly separated from those known as Seventh Day Baptists, as well as those known as Seventh-day Adventists.

The late Dr. Herman Hoeh reported his understanding:

In 1843 several followers of Miller in Washington, New Hampshire, became acquainted with the truth of the Sabbath. It was not until after the miserable disappointment of 1844, however, that the general body of adventists had the Sabbath question called to their attention. A small number accepted the Sabbath and SOON UNITED WITH THE FEW REMAINING CHURCH OF GOD BRETHREN who refused to be affiliated with the Seventh-day Baptist Conference (Hoeh, A True History of The True Church).

I would add that, for many reasons, I believe that only a small part of the COG may have been associated with the Adventist movement and that most did not coalesce behind any group until the group initially called Church of God (Adventist) (CGA) became more like the group that officially became Church of God (Seventh Day) (CG7) in 1923. I have various concerns and doubts about many of the 19th early 20th century CGA leaders. Though, because of how it was confederately organized, some groups and individuals related to CGA were likely part of the COG.

As far as were the members came from, notice something written by H.E. Carver (who was then a leader in CGA) to the SDBs that was published in the February 8, 1872, Seventh Day Baptist Sabbath Recorder:

There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Sabbath-keepers scattered over the land, from the Atlantic coast to the shores of the Pacific, who do not belong either to your church organization, or that of the Seventh-day Adventists. Some of these are lonely ones, having no church privileges…Attempts have at different times been made to combine this Sabbath-keeping element in a distinct body; but as yet without the success desired. (As cited in Briggs, Lawson. What Became of the Church Jesus Built? Thesis for Ambassador College, April 1972, pp. 265,267)

Perhaps this would be a good place to include a quote from the editor of the Bible Advocate, in its November 23, 1909 issue (apparently Jacob Brinkerhoff at this time):

Some people have a mistaken idea of the members of the Church of God, or most of them, having previously being connected to the Seventh-day Adventists, when the fact is that not many of them ever were. (As cited in Briggs, p. 273)

The COG was not truly an off-shoot of the SDAs as the SDAs tend to teach.

Gilbert Cranmer, an early CGA leader, declared this about his learning the Sabbath:

Among other subjects, the seventh day Sabbath was being investigated. My attention was first called to it by an article in a paper called the “Midnight Cry” written by J.C. Day of Ashburnham, Massachusetts. They strongly urged the doctrine at the time, but I did not become fully established in the Sabbath truth until the year 1845. David Hewitt of Battle Creek and myself commenced it at the same day. About this time I made the acquaintance of Elder Joseph Bates. He too commenced the observance of the Sabbath…In 1846 James White received the Sabbath truth from Elder Joseph Bates (Branch M.A.  Autobiography of Gilbert Cranmer 1814-1903 as told to M.A. Branch.  Sent by the Church of God (Seventh Day)—undated.  Original on file with the Bible Advocate Press, Denver, pp. 10-11).

So, Gilbert Cranmer began keeping the Sabbath before the Whites did. He first learned of it in 1843 (Kiesz J. The Sabbath Through the Ages. Bible Advocate, July 26, 1965).

The late John Kiesz wrote:

It is evident that there were Sabbath-keeping groups (independent) besides the Seventh Day Baptists, before and during the time of William Miller’s preaching and prediction of the end of the world, in 1844. Elder Gilbert Cranmer of Michigan wrote in his memoirs that he received his first light on the Sabbath in 1843 from an article in the Midnight Cry, a Millerite publication, written by J. C. Day of Ashburhan, Massachusetts. S. C. Hancock of Forestville, Connecticut, also advocated the doctrine in the same year (Kiesz J. SOME CHURCH OF GOD HISTORY (7TH DAY)).

A Seventh-day Adventist leaning book stated:

CHURCH OF GOD (SEVENTH DAY). Adventist group that traces it origin back to the original sabbatarian Adventist movement.  After H.S. Case and C.P. Russell came into conflict with Ellen G. White in Jackson, Michigan, in 1853, they began publishing the Messenger of Truth and two years later formed an alliance with J.M. Stephenson and D.P. Hall in Wisconsin ... advocating the belief that during the millennium individuals would have a second chance to accept Christ (Land G. Historical Dictionary Of Seventh-Day Adventists: Historical Dictionaries of Religions Philosophies, and Movements, No. 56. Published by Scarecrow Press, 2005, p. 63).

Of course, a “second chance” is not actually taught by the COG, but a legitimate first chance is (see Universal Offer of Salvation: There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis). But it was in the 1850s that there was a separation between those that supported James and Ellen White and those that held to more traditional COG positions.

Ellen White had some "vision" and that stopped the SDAs from teaching the age to come.

in 1851, Ellen White, through a vision, helped a church member who was confused with the "age to come" error. (Douglass HE. Messenger of the Lord. Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1998, p. 436)

In the 19th century, some Sabbatarians published the Messenger of Truth:

The Messenger of Truth vigorously promoted the age-to-come doctrine until the paper closed in 1858. (Bull, Malcolm; Lockhart Keith. Seeking a Sanctuary: Seventh-day Adventism and the American Dream.  Published by Indiana University Press, 2007)

In the 19th century, various ones like James P. Stephenson taught the “age to come,” though J.P. Stephenson himself was falsely accused of going insane in his later years by the SDAs, a group that still perpetuates that story (Stilson JT. Biogragraphical Encyclopedia: Chronicling the History of the Church of God Abrahamic Faith. Word Edge, 2011, pp. 248-254)

In the year 1863 there were many people in various parts of the United States who held to the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath and were looking for the soon return of Christ, but who either had never been connected with the Seventh day Adventists, or who had rejected the inspiration of the so-called "visions" of Mrs. E. G. White. These people were scattered and unorganized. In the summer of 1863 a number of them associated together and began the publication of a monthly paper, named "The Hope of Israel." The first issue was dated August 10, 1863, and was issued from Hartford, Mich. Enos Easton was editor and Samuel Davison and Gilbert Cranmer were leaders of the work. Some of those supporting the paper were loosely organized under the name "Church of Christ" while others held to the name "Church of God." But they were united in faith in the soon coming of Christ and a number of other doctrines, and also were opposed to accepting the "visions" of Mrs. E. G. White. (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1941, p. 36)

Church of God became the settled upon name. With the group being called Church of God (Adventist) in the 19th century.

In the Hope of Israel, then published by the Church of God (Adventist) there was a teaching to the effect that Pentecost represented the former rain, but that a latter rain was to come (August 10, 1863). Various "age to come" views were published by the 'Church of God' groups in the 19th century.

The 21st century CG7 no longer teaches that an opportunity for salvation that comes after the millennium and the second resurrection (though it suggests it is possible)--but the Continuing Church of God does.

CG7-Denver (the largest CG7 group) teaches this about its mid-nineteenth century and more recent history:

The Church of God (Seventh Day) grew from the efforts of dedicated advent believers living in Michigan and Iowa in the late 1850's. In 1863, the Michigan church began to extend its influence into the eastern and central U.S. through a publication called The Hope of Israel. This magazine invited fellow Christians to assemble at conferences and campmeetings, and created interest in their distinctive doctrines: the second advent of Christ and the seventh-day Sabbath. Through these means, the General Conference of the Church of God (Seventh Day) was organized in 1884 and incorporated in Missouri in 1899. Its offices were located in Stanberry, Missouri, until 1950, when they were transferred to Denver, Colorado. Over the years, The Hope of Israel also moved from Michigan to Iowa, then to Missouri. After several name changes, it is now known as the Bible Advocate. More than 100 years later, this flagship publication of the Church continues to be published and mailed ten times a year from the Denver offices (, 02/14/06).

One important item that CG7 neglected to mention above is that many of its official founding members broke away from those that became the Seventh-day Adventists (SDAs) when certain leaders took over, proposed the name Seventh-day Adventist, and came up with prophecies and other views which were never held by the true Church of God. The changes by the SDAs did appeal to some who were disappointed in 1844 as well as those who did not have the "love of the truth" (2 Thessalonians 2:10) as well as to many SDBs (Randolph, pp. 202,228).

The new group called itself Church of God (Adventist) in the 1800s and had a range of doctrine, not all of which acceptable to the COG. However, because CGA had a range of doctrines and many that were not defined, various COG congregations began to have relationships with it (Coulter R. The Journey: A History of the Church of God (Seventh Day). Robert Coulter, 2014, pp. 173-180).

CG7’s Robert Coulter reported the following history about what became his organization:

By 1860 a conference of several congregations located across south-central and western Michigan was organized ... another branch of the Church of God (Seventh Day) was founded in Iowa ... at Marion ...

Cranmer recalls in his biography that he seventh-day Sabbath was first brought to his attention in an Advent publication called The Midnight Cry ... Gilbert Cranmer, founder of the church in Michigan, 1858 (Coulter R.  The Story of the Church of God (Seventh Day). Bible Advocate Press, Denver, 1983, pp. 9,11).

Perhaps it should be mentioned that the Ellen White Adventists were not formally called Seventh-day Adventists in 1858. They did not adopt that name formally until October 1, 1860. 

The SDAs have reported the following about the group in Marion:

The Marion party adopted the name Church of God (Adventist) ... While retaining Sabbath observance, they differed in their understanding of the Millennium, favoring an earthly millennium at which time, with Christ’s presence upon the earth, all mankind will be converted.  They promoted the keeping of Old Testament Feast days and advanced the unscriptural notion that Christ died on Wednesday and arose Saturday afternoon, having spent seventy-two hours, three whole days and nights, in Joseph’s tomb.

... an offshoot of this church formed adopting the named Church of God (Seventh Day) (Standish RR, Standish C. The General Conference Confronts Apostasy.  Hartland Publications, , 2006, p. 84).

While we in the faithful Church of God do not teach that ALL of humankind will be converted (and it is possible that the SDA writer slightly misunderstood that point as I noted some other errors in that book, such as it called H.W. Armstrong, W.W. Armstrong), the doctrines listed above are consistent with the historical positions of the true COG (such as the fact that Jesus was crucified on a Wednesday and was resurrected on a Saturday, for details, please see What Happened in the Crucifixion Week?).

Some in Ohio left affiliation with the SDAs once they had the name Seventh-day Adventist imposed upon them. 

Notice the following report:

... the church carrying the message of truth, teaching the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, at this time was called "The Church of God," we submit the following, from the Review and Herald of April 9, 1861, under title of "Secession." It reads as follows:-- "Brother Smith: We conclude from present aspects that the name, Seventh Day Adventist,' is being made obligatory upon our brethren. Without further light Ohio cannot submit to the name, 'Seventh Day Adventist,' as either a test, or an appropriate name for God's people.-- "Being appointed a finance committee at the last conference, and having now on hand means for carrying on the cause in Ohio, we could not conscientiously expend those means in any other than the advancement and extension of the truth and the `Church of God.'-- "If such means are expended otherwise it will be necessary for the churches in Ohio to assemble in conference, and to give instruction to that effect, and to choose some other committee to make the disbursements. "Signed J. Dudley, L. E. Jones, J. P. Flemming, Finance committee of Ohio."(Dugger AN, Dodd CO, Chapter 22).

In 1863, Enos Easton wrote in the first edition of The Hope of Israel on August 10, 1863:

As principles we maintain,

1st. “That the Bible and the Bible alone” contain the whole moral law; and that its precepts are sufficient to govern God’s people in every age of the world ... ” (Coulter, p. 19).

For believing the above, the SDAs apparently considered those in the Church of God movement rebels, but they themselves did not consider that to be the case.  Notice something on church circular that was later republished in the Hope of Israel in 1864:

On the 10th of June, 1860, something over 50 of us adopted a form of a church covenant drawn up by one of the approve messengers [to wit, M.E. Cornell] ...

Nearly a year and a half afterward, the same messenger held up publicly, some other volumes by the side of the Bible, or a recent date, and averred that these recent publications were of equal authority and urged us to adopt their teaching, also as a rule of faith and discipline ...

We now discover that the cry for organization, had been made under false colors; and that while the plea of holding church property, and securing church imposters was held out, the real object was to put the visions of Ellen G. White on the same eminence with the Bible. ...

As it regards rebels, we boldly assert that we are not rebels.  We have not rebelled against the constitution which we adopted, for we stand firm on it yet.  We have not rebelled against Ellen G. White, for we never endorsed her ... so the charge of rebellion reflects with shame on them who have made it, they being the ones who have departed from their first position [the Bible and the Bible alone] and have adopted a new one (Coulter, p. 16-17).

Thus, the faithful claimed that it was those who accepted Ellen G, White’s visions as at least as important as the Bible who were the rebels.  Hence, they are claiming (correctly) that the Church of God did not come out of the SDA movement per se, but that when they thought that the SDA movement believed in the Bible alone, they were originally willing to have organizational fellowship with it. Yet, once they realized that the SDAs rejected the position of the Bible alone to the position of the Bible as interpreted by Ellen G. White, that they could no longer be affiliated with it.

Yet, those in the true Church of God rejected Ellen White as a prophetess in the 1800s (and still do now) and most who did were not part of the SDAs nor the early CGA. This does not mean that all her "prophecies" were false--even Roman Catholic "prophets" have made statements that came to pass--it simply means that we in the COGs do not believe that Ellen White was a prophetess sent by God, nor do we refer to her writings as "inspiration" as many SDAs do.

Another fundamental difference for the split between those now known as SDAs and those in the COGs can probably be shown from the sanctuary interpretation of 1844 by Ellen White. Notice what she wrote:

THE SUBJECT OF THE sanctuary was the key which unlocked the mystery of the disappointment of 1844. It opened to view a complete system of truth, connected and harmonius, showing that God's hand directed the great advent movement, and revealing present duty as it brought to light the position and work of His people (White E.G. Will America Survive? 1888; Reprint, 1988 by Inspiration Books East, Jemison (AL), p. 405).

Now while I do believe that Ellen White was correct that prophecy is important, we in the COGs do not believe that the message of the Bible is that the Advent movement is correct because of her sanctuary interpretation. It is the Bible, and not Ellen White's interpretations, that unlock the mysteries of God and which is the complete system of truth.

The plain truth is that the Church of God people had a lot of biblical doctrines in the 1800s. The Whites came into contact, mainly indirect contact, with them and accepted some of their doctrines, and hence did teach many biblical truths. However, their excessive fixation on Ellen White's prophetic interpretations, combined with the fact that she (and ultimately nearly all other SDA members), began to lose many biblical COG doctrines shows that the SDAs are simply not part of the COG (although some who believe that they are in that movement may be).

SDAs and Their Opponents

Ellen White made the following comments as part of her "Testimony for the Church," No. 6:

"No name which we can take will be appropriate but that which accords with our profession, and expresses our faith, and marks us as a peculiar people. . .

"The name Seventh-day Adventist carries the true features of our faith in front, and will convict the inquiring mind. Like an arrow from the Lord's quiver, it will wound the transgressors of God's law, and will lead to repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

"I was shown that almost every fanatic who has arisen, who wishes to hide his sentiments that he may lead away others, claims to belong to to the Church of God. Such a name would at once excite suspicion; for it is employed to conceal the most absurd errors."

(As cited in Loughborough JN. Rise and progress of the Seventh-day Adventists: with tokens of God's hand in the movement and a brief sketch of the Advent cause from 1831 to 1844. General Conference Association of the Seventh-day Adventists, 1892. Original from the University of Wisconsin – Madison.  Digitized May 15, 2009, p. 227)

So, according to Ellen White's sixth “Testimony” nearly all who opposed her claimed to be part of the Church of God.

Looking over a variety of SDA books on its history makes it clear that most of the SDAs seem to believe that those who left it, for what ultimately became CG7, were fanatical people with character flaws and not committed Christians.  The reality is that many in the Sardis period never were part of the SDAs or even CGA.

Many SDA publications seem to focus on 4-10 individuals who opposed them and do not report on the totality of what occurred. 

SDA publications teach/indicate that Gilbert Cranmer left because he had bad habits and could not get credentialed as a minister. The truth is that Gilbert Cranmer (who left the Methodists in the early 1800s, because he did not accept the trinity, Branch, p. 4) was both licensed and ordained as a minister (Branch, pp. 4,7) by the same group that licensed and ordained James White.  

And while it is true because the Whites added a later requirement that they issue "a recommendation to the fellowship" (Coulter, The Story of the Church of God (Seventh Day), p. 13) to preach that they ended up denying to Gilbert Cranmer, the truth is that they would not issue it because he raised severe doubts about Ellen White.

Here is what Gilbert Cranmer wrote in 1863 about Ellen G. White and why he stayed for a while with those that eventually became known as the SDAs:

About ten years ago ... Bates came to our town and advocated the whole Law, the gifts of the Spirit, and many other glorious truths.  The gifts belonging to the Church, I had believed in for over 20 years.  Hence I felt to rejoice, supposing I had found the people I had been so long looking for ...

But as long as I was with them, I never knew of any being healed.  I have known them to try but they always failed ...

I also found that the gift of prophecy, with them, was wholly confined to a woman.  I became suspicious that I had got a board the wrong ship. I then commenced giving her visions a thorough investigation. I found they contradict themselves, and they also contradict the Bible. My doubts concerning the visions I made known to the brethren. At once they gave me the cold shoulder, and I was held at bay. Not knowing any people I could unite with, I remained with them for years, hoping they would get sick of the visions of E.G. White, and that we could yet walk together in unity of spirit. But instead of rejecting them, as I hoped they would, they only drew the reigns tighter. At last I made up my mind to not be part of a church ruled by a woman any longer (Coulter, The Story of the Church of God (Seventh Day), pp. 13-14).

Gilbert Cranmer also declared:

The “shut-door” doctrine formed a part of the doctrine of the church; that is, Mrs. White had seen in vision that the day of salvation for sinners was past, and those that fully believed in her visions as coming from God accepted that doctrine ... I did not believe the doctrine nor teach it ... matters ran quite smoothly as far as I was concerned until on Sabbath while I was preaching in Otsego.

Among other things, I stated that I had no evidence that the door of the Holy Place had been closed.  This did not meet the mind of some present.  One of the brethren called my attention to the visions. I said, “This may be evidence to you, but it is not to me”... and an effort was made to bring me into subjection with the visions. I saw no way of reconciling matters. Then I concluded to walk no farther with them and told them so (Branch, pp. 10,11).

So, Gilbert Cranmer originally waited for the bulk of the people to see what was obvious to him and when it was clear that many would not, he left in 1858.

Here is information related to meeting he had with a SDA leader after denying the "shut-door" doctrine from two who attended the meeting:

"Gilbert Cranmer ... came to our house. and while there Mr. Lester Russell came in and asked him if he really meant to say that the outer door of the Sanctuary was still open. In answer, Brother Cranmer told him that he had said what he meant, and that he had no proof to the contrary. Mr. Russell stated that the outer door of the Sanctuary was closed in 1844. Brother Cranmer asked him the nature of his proof, and he drew from his pocket Ellen G. White's book of visions and said there was his proof.

Brother Cranmer answered, "Perhaps Mrs. White's visions are proof to you, but they are not to me".

Some of the church got very much excited over the course Brother Cranmer proposed to pursue in regard to the "shut-door" question, and Mr. George Leighton went to Battle Creek to confer with Elder White on the subject. On his return, Mr. Leighton said that Elder White told him not to let Elder Cranmer speak to the church at Otsego ... The result of the conclusion of the matter was that they refused him the privilege of preaching to them or for them because he did not hold the visions of Ellen G. White to be inspired.

Mr. Leighton said in our presence that the visions were inspired, that they were better than the Bible because they were warm and fresh from the throne of God, and that anyone who did not accept them as inspiration absolutely would be {condemned by God}...These statements we solemnly aver to be true (Perkins Joseph, Perkins Louise. In Branch, p. 12).

Interestingly, the SDAs ultimately abandoned the shut-door doctrine themselves:

Joseph Bates and James White, amopng other leaders of the developing sabbatarian movement, both accepted the shut-door theory, and Ellen G. White experienced a vision in December 1844 that appeared to support this understanding. In 1849, however she had another vision that portrayed Jesus as shutting the door to the Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary and opening the door to the most Holy Place...Soon some sabbatarians Adventists where speaking of both a shut door, referring to those that had rejected the gospel message, and an open door that was available to certain individuals despite the fact that they had not believed that Christ was coming in 1844...

Joseph Bates and James White concluded that their shut door views were wrong and by 1854 had largely abandoned shut door/open door language. (Land G. Historical Dictionary Of Seventh-Day Adventists: Historical Dictionaries of Religions Philosophies, and Movements, No. 56. Published by Scarecrow Press, 2005, p. 273).

So, it seems that it took Joseph Bates and James White several years themselves to accept Ellen White's opening and closing vision.

Here is simply one example where an SDA writers has blamed diet and health for “rebellion” against the SDAs:

The influence of ill-health in dissension and rebellion should doubtless not be overstressed; for the spirit should rule the flesh: yet that diet played a part is indisputable.  The heavy meat consumption and the use of fiery condiments were hindrances to self-control and balance and tobacco remained a temptation to which the diet ministered. Cranmer departed because of tobacco; Snook was nervously debilitated; Hull alternated between spells of moroseness with levity; Hall and Rhodes, early companions of the Whites, became progressively alienated as their health declined (Spalding, Arthur Whitefield. Captains of the Host: A History of the Seventh Day Adventists. Published by Kessinger Publishing, 2005, pp. 310-311).

It should be pointed out that “use of tobacco” (Standish RR, Standish C. The General Conference Confronts Apostasy.  Hartland Publications, 2006, p. 83) is one of the frequent SDA complaints against Gilbert Cranmer that I have read, but rarely do SDA books point out that Gilbert Cranmer was considered to be a “tobacco eater”(Bull, Malcolm; Lockhart Keith. Seeking a Sanctuary: Seventh-day Adventism and the American Dream. Published by Indiana University Press, 2007, p. 107), by which this seems to be consistent with one that chews tobacco. 

Which is verified by something the SDAs published in the 19th century:

Eld. Cranmer. The time drew on for the conference to commence and C. arrived. Well, in the first place we found him addicted to the filthy habit of chewing tobacco. (Letter from S.B. Gowell written December 30, 1864, published in Advent Review and Sabbath Herald. Vol. 25 Issue 10, January 17, 1865, pp. 61-62)

I think it should be mentioned that in the 1800s, that tobacco chewing would probably be close to the moral equivalent of gum-chewing today.

Also, perhaps I should point out that probably the leading natural, vegetarian, commercial source of a substance known as coenzyme Q10 is from tobacco leaves (Hendlor S, Rorvik D, eds. PDR for Nutritional Supplements, 1st edition. Medical Economics, Montvale (NJ). 2001, p. 103). Hence, many SDAs themselves who consume natural source vegetarian coenzyme Q10 supplements, in a sense, are probably also “tobacco eaters.”

But I should add here that I am not trying to make a personal defense here of Gilbert Cranmer, but just explaining some of the flaws in the SDA condemnations (because of his view of the Godhead, etc. I have severe doubts about whether Gilbert Cranmer was truly part of the true COG). 

The SDA meat and fiery condiment accusation should also be addressed. Jesus clearly ate animal flesh (Luke 9:16-17; 24:42-43). Jesus could have been, and probably was (Luke 7:34), accused of heavy meat consumption. The patriarch Isaac was apparently into heavy use of condiments for meat (Genesis 27:7). Thus, saying that meat and spices lead to lack of self-control and rebellion is a biblical myth.

Now Gilbert Cranmer listed his reasons for not being part of the SDAs and tobacco was not one of them. Perhaps it should be emphasized that Gilbert Cranmer lived until he was over 89 years old, while Ellen White lived until she was over 87 years old and James White barely made it to age 60. Hence, perhaps Gilbert Cranmer's health habits were not worse, but actually better, than the Whites.

Trying to paint those that did not accept Ellen White’s visions as from God as mainly rebels without self-control is highly misleading. (More on Ellen White, SDA differences, and some of Ellen White's prophetic errors can be found in the article SDA/COG Differences: Two Horned Beast of Revelation and 666.)

Seventh-day Adventists Changed Doctrine

In 1873, the SDAs reported that they had 6,000 members (Andrews, p. 511-512; cf. p. iv). And though they have grown considerably since then, it needs to be emphasized that there simply were not tremendous amounts of Sabbatarians who chose the SDAs over the Church of God. Both groups only had a few thousand in the mid-1800s.

In addition to no longer believing in an "age to come" (Mrs. White taught a shut-door for a while, and what the SDAs now teach is not the "age to come" doctrine as understood by the truly faithful in the Church of God), an earthly millennium (Mrs. White taught it was in heaven), and the Bible above Mrs. White's visions, the SDAs also changed their views on the Godhead.

SDA scholar S. Bacchiocchi acknowledged that the SDAs originally were anti-trinitarian (which all the true COGs are), but now the SDAs embrace the idea of the trinity:

The doctrine of the Trinity has been under the crossfire of controversy during much of Christian history. Our Adventist Church has not been exempted from the controversy. In the newly released book The Trinity: Its Implications for Life and Thought (Review and Herald, 2002), Prof. Jerry Moon, one of the three authors, offers a most informative historical survey of the gradual evolution of Adventist pioneers from anti-Trinitarian to Trinitarian beliefs (Bacchiocchi S. The Importance of the Doctrine of the Trinity. ENDTIME ISSUES NEWSLETTER NO. 147. 5/11/06).

Over time, the SDAs CHANGED their doctrines, with the trinity being an important change.

And this is one problem of COG history--many fall away and change doctrine to worldly, non-COG positions (this is documented much more fully in the article SDA/COG Differences: Two Horned Beast of Revelation and 666). Jesus knew of this of course, and warned about it, as more specifically did Paul (Matthew 7:13-20;20:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:3).

The Church of God Is Not Truly an Offshoot of the Seventh-day Adventists

Richard Nickels wrote:

Seventh-Day Adventist history states that the Church of God (Seventh Day) "was actually an early offshoot of the Seventh-Day Adventists." But Church of God historian Andrew N. Dugger dogmatically contradicts this by stating that Sabbath-keeping Adventists were originally known as "Church of God" people, and that those who in October, 1860 formed the Seventh-Day Adventist church at Battle Creek, Michigan "are a branch from [and withdrew from] the original church, 'The Church of God'." In other words, the Seventh Day Church of God believes that the Seventh-Day Adventists withdrew from them, while the Seventh-Day Adventists believe the Church of God withdrew from Seventh-Day Adventists! A modern Seventh Day Church of God minister and a Seventh-Day Adventist minister concur on a more "liberal" viewpoint: in the early 1860's, the two groups parted their ways (Richard Nickels, History of the Seventh Day Church of God).

Throughout the history of the Church of God (Seventh Day) and the Seventh-Day Adventists, the two groups have been in diametric opposition to each other.

Basically, those that became known as the Church of God (Seventh Day) did not accept Ellen White’s visions and certain doctrines (especially her view that “the investigative judgment” began and that there would be no earthly millennium nor future “age to come” where those who did not truly have an opportunity for salvation would receive it) nor the name Seventh Day Adventist.  When these became imposed on Sabbatarian congregations, there was a separation. (An article of related interest may be SDA/COG Differences: Two Horned Beast of Revelation and 666.)

Notice also:

A ... pioneer, Jacob Brinkerhoff, died in 1916. He had served as editor of the Advocate on and off from 1871 to 1914. Mr. Brinkerhoff was considered by many to be the most outstanding leader of the Church in his time. "Jacob Brinkerhoff had served the Church of God for over 40 years. ... Instead of buying a home in 1874, Brinkerhoff used the money instead to buy the press equipment for the Advent and Sabbath Advocate. ... Single-handedly, it seems, he had prevented the total collapse of the Work" (Richard Nickels, History of the Seventh Day Church of God, p. 85).

Andrew N. Dugger, son of Alexander Dugger, began his ministry with the Church of God in 1906. When Jacob Brinkerhoff retired from the editorship of The Bible Advocate in 1914, he became both president of the General Conference and editor. "During his tenure as president and editor, Dugger exerted much influence upon the Church. Throughout the early period of Dugger’s leadership, the Church of God experienced some of its most rapid and greatest growth" (Coulter, The Story of the Church of God (Seventh Day), pp. 41–42).

Andrew Dugger retained leadership from June of 1914 until 1932.

Some who once had loose association with them, such as

John S. Stanford, a Remnant editor, wrote that it is wrong for Christians to vote (Remnant of Israel, September 1928. As stated in The Remnant of Israel. Richard Nickels' Reprint 1993, p. 191).

(Most in the Churches of God do not vote.)

It should be noted that CG7 was then quite small. Richard Nickels reported:

In 1927, the Church of God (Seventh Day), or Church of God (Adventist), as it was variously known, had scattered members probably numbering less than 2,000 mostly in rural areas, and only a very limited number of local churches, none as large as 100 members.

CG7 reported the following history about itself:

Dec. 1899 - General Conference (G.C.) incorporated in Missouri.
1900 Magazine changes name to Bible Advocate and Herald of the Coming Kingdom.
1903 Michigan pioneer Gilbert Cranmer dies.
1906 Andrew N. Dugger begins ministry.
1914 Jacob Brinkerhoff retires; A. N. Dugger becomes Advocate editor.
1900-22 Church expands from the Midwest to West Coast, deep South, East, and High Plains; over 1,000 members added in 1921.
1923 The name Church of God (Seventh Day) is adopted.
1925 Bible Advocate ceases to be open forum for debatable Issues.
1927 G.C. resolution calls for doctrinal conformity among membership.
1931 A. N. Dugger visits Jerusalem, proposes it for Church headquarters.
1932 Returning from Jerusalem, Elder Dugger moves to restore “Bible organization,” i.e., use of 12, 7, and 70 within the Church.
1933 Meeting in Stanberry, MO, the G.C. divides over Elder Dugger’s candidacy for president; a segment of members institutes “Bible organization” in Salem, WV.
(100 Years of Church of God Seventh Day (CG7) History, from The Bible Advocate, December 1999. 6/24/06).

Notice that it had a split in 1933, which is when the Philadelphia era began.

In the 1920s, Sardis seemed to have outreaches throughout the world. In the 1920s, CG7 had works in Argentina, Australia, several Balkan states, Barbados, Bermuda, Boliva, Canada, Costa Rica, China, Cuba, Dominica, El Salvador, England, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Palestine, Panama, South Africa, Sweden, Trinidad, United States of America, West Africa, and elsewhere (Nickels. History of the Seventh Day Church of God, pp. 100-122). In the 1920s, in addition to English, Church of God literature was produced in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, German, Spanish, Chinese, two Indian languages, Portuguese, French, and Italian (Ibid, pp. 100,113).

Under A.N. Dugger, CG7 taught a fair amount about prophecy and other matters.

It should be noted that CG7 was then quite small. Richard Nickels reported:

In 1927, the Church of God Seventh Day, or Church of God Adventist, as it was variously known, had scattered members probably numbering less than 2,000 mostly in rural areas, and only a very limited number of local churches, none as large as 100 members...…The year 1929 saw a downturn of events for the Church of God.  From 1922-1929 converts never matched the the year 1922. (Ibid, p. 2, 124)

The above seems mainly to be the USA membership; the amount in other nations was probably not high, but was not in the above source.

In 1929, Herbert Armstrong had written A.N. Dugger about certain points that A.N. Dugger (then CG7 president) admitted in writing were correct (see the actual letter in the article Who Was Herbert W. Armstrong? How is He Viewed Today?). Later Herbert Armstrong wrote the following about it:

The only Church I had so far found which "kept the commandments of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ," and at the same time bore the NAME of the original true Church, was this almost unknown little Church of God with its small publishing house in Stanberry, Missouri" (Autobiography 1973 ed., page 312).

... So, as the first step in this test, I wrote up an exposition of some 16 typewritten pages proving clearly, plainly, and beyond contradiction that a certain minor point of doctrine proclaimed by this church, based on an erroneous interpretation of a certain verse of Scripture, was in error. This was mailed to the Stanberry, Missouri, headquarters to see whether their leaders would confess error and change. The answer came back from their head man, editor of their paper and president of their "General Conference." He was forced to admit, in plain words, that their teaching on this point was false and in error. But, he explained, he feared that if any attempt was made to correct this false doctrine and publicly confess the truth, many of their members, especially those of older standing and heavy tithe payers, would be unable to accept it. He feared they would lose confidence in the Church if they found it had been in error on any point. He said he feared many would withdraw their financial support, and it might divide the Church. And therefore he felt the Church could do nothing but continue to teach and preach this doctrine which he admitted in writing to be false. Naturally, this shook my confidence considerably. This church leader, if not the church itself, was looking to people as the SOURCE of belief, instead of to God! Yet, here was the only Church holding to the one greatest basic truth of the Commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, kept in the NAME of God, and in spite of this and a few other erroneous teachings, nevertheless being closer to the whole truth than any church I had found. If this was not the true Church of God, then where was it? (pages 315-316).

A.N. Dugger, who would not change because he feared a split, however, still ended up with a split church. Four years after he admitted that Herbert Armstrong was right in writing, CG7 divided into two parts after a Conference on August 18, 1933.

Herbert Armstrong later wrote:

I continued to work with and fellowship with West Coast members of the Sardis era until 1942, when the rapidly growing work of the fledgling Philadelphia era required my full time. The present era was officially begun in October, 1933. (Armstrong H. Worldwide News, Special edition, June 24, 1985)

1933 is the year that Herbert Armstrong felt that the Philadelphia era began.

The Cottrell Family Helps Prove that There Was a Long Line of Sabbath Keepers Prior to the Seventh-day Adventists

One family that was apparently part of one of those Sabbath-keeping churches in England, and later the church in Newport, Rhode Island, was the Cottrell family. And they may go back much farther than that as a Catholic pronouncement suggests.

After various persecutions, the Roman Pope Leo actually decided that killing those associated with the Church of God was not appropriate. This was confirmed by the Third Lateran Council in 1179, which apparently decided that economic blackmail was better:

As St. Leo says, though the discipline of the church should be satisfied with the judgment of the priest and should not cause the shedding of blood, yet it is helped by the laws of catholic princes so that people often seek a salutary remedy when they fear that a corporal punishment will overtake them. For this reason, since in Gascony and the regions of Albi and Toulouse and in other places the loathsome heresy of those whom some call the Cathars, others the Patarenes, others the Publicani, and others by different names, has grown so strong that they no longer practise their wickedness in secret, as others do, but proclaim their error publicly and draw the simple and weak to join them, we declare that they and their defenders and those who receive them are under anathema, and we forbid under pain of anathema that anyone should keep or support them in their houses or lands or should trade with them. If anyone dies in this sin, then neither under cover of our privileges granted to anyone, nor for any other reason, is mass to be offered for them or are they to receive burial among Christians. With regard to the Brabanters, Aragonese, Navarrese, Basques, Coterelli and Triaverdini {17 }, who practise such cruelty upon Christians that they respect neither churches nor monasteries, and spare neither widows, orphans, old or young nor any age or sex, but like pagans destroy and lay everything waste, we likewise decree that those who hire, keep or support them, in the districts where they rage around, should be denounced publicly on Sundays and other solemn days in the churches, that they should be subject in every way to the same sentence and penalty as the above-mentioned heretics and that they should not be received into the communion of the church, unless they abjure their pernicious society and heresy(Third Lateran Council, Canon 27. 1179 A.D. Translation taken from Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, ed. Norman P. Tanner).

The Third Lateran Council took place under Pope Alexander III, Frederick I being emperor. There were 302 bishops present. It condemned the Albigenses and Waldenses (The 21 Ecumenical Councils. Source: The Catholic Encyclopedia, 02/12/06).

But economic boycotting and shunning was not enough to eliminate them, so killing soon became the preference.

The famous inquisition began in 1233 in southern France, when Pope Gregory IX charged the Dominican order with wiping out Cathari (which means the same thing as Puritan) and others not approved by the State church. There is a long history of European church leaders attempting to eliminate those part of, or sympathetic to, the Church of God (some of this is discussed in the article Europa, the Beast, and Revelation).

Anyway, there was a family from southern France condemned by the Third Lateran Council that made it through all of this and eventually made to America.

Richard Nickels, who relied on multiple sources, reports:

Roswell F. Cottrell. He descended from a long line of Sabbath-keepers; the Cottrells were an Albigensian family or clan of southwestern France...The Cottrell family of England was descended from John Cottrell the Norman, one of the few survivors of the devastating Albigensian Crusades. In 1638 (two years after Rhode Island plantation was founded by Roger Williams), Nicholas Cottrell came from England and settled Rhode Island.

The Cottrell name is found among the earliest Church of God people (later Seventh Day Baptist) people in America. John Cottrell was a member of the "mother" church in Newport, Rhode Island in 1692. Nicholas and Dorothy Cottrell were members of the Westerly Church (Rhode Island) in November 1712.

Roswell F. Cottrell, born in New York, was sixth in the line of descent from the original Nicholas Cottrell. Several Cottrells were Seventh Day Baptist preachers. Roswell was reared in a Sabbath-keeping family and observed the Sabbath all his life.

... the Cottrell family left the Seventh Day Baptists because the Cottrells refused to believe in the immortality of the soul. Original Sabbatarian Baptist (Church of God) leaders were outspoken against the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, and were derisively termed "soul sleepers" by their opponents. But the belief in the immortality of the soul eventually crept into Sabbatarian Baptist teachings through men such as William Davis.

After leaving the Seventh Day Baptists, the Cottrells were known as "Seventh Day Christians". A good-sized group of believers was raised up, whose members were sometimes termed "Cottrellites"...

But in 1851, through Joseph Bates and Samuel Rhodes, now Sabbath-keepers, Roswell, his brother and his father John accepted Adventist teaching. Roswell became a leading Adventist minister and writer.

During the debate over a church name, Roswell F. Cottrell stood for "Church of God". He was not able to attend the Battle Creek Conference of 1860 when the church name was selected, but his article "Making Us a Name," published in the Review and Herald of March 22, 1860 was counted as support for the group that opposed organizing under the name Seventh Day Adventists. In the Review of May 3, 1960, he wrote, "I do not believe in popery; neither do I believe in anarchy; but in Bible order, discipline, and government in the Church of God" (Nickels R.C. Six Paper on the History of the Church of God. Giving & Sharing, Neck City (MO), 1993, pp.161-162).

In other words, for around 700 years, we may have the continuity of one family at least being part of/affiliated with the groups that we in the COGs have long stated had the truth at various times in history (we never really teach that the SDAs had the whole truth, but only that some of those they attracted may have had some COG affilation; nor is it certain that all in that family held to many COG doctrines).

SDB Tamar Davis reported:

Lucius Crandall received an appointment to that field, which he continued for three years.  He was succeeded in 1846 by Libbeus Cottrel, a young man of considerable promise (Davis T., p. 154).

Here is one brief mention of another 19th century Sabbath-keeper and minister named Cottrell:

Roswell F. Cottrell, of western New York, descendant of French Albigenses, Seventh Day Baptist, and convert of Joseph Bates…(Spalding , Arthur Whitefield. Captains of the Host: A History of the Seventh Day Adventists. Published by Kessinger Publishing, 2005, p. 198)

(Note: As Roswell Cottrell denied the immortality of the soul doctrine, he was probably not truly a member of the Seventh Day Baptists as they mainly accepted that by that time and his 'conversion' above was to the SDAs).

In a letter to the editor dated September 18, 1854, George Cottrell wrote to the Messenger of Truth (a publication denounced by the SDAs) asking for back issues. Regarding Ellen White's visions, he wrote:

But the visions never were any help to me in believing the present truth ... I do not think that they should be a test of Christian fellowship, and I think many are seeing it so. (Cottrell G. From Bro. Cottrell. Messenger of Truth, October 19, 1854, p. 4).

So, various Cottrells had concerns about the SDAs.

As far as their history goes, I should mentioned that I also saw Nicholas Cottrell’s name in a list of male, mainly, immigrants who settled in New England (mainly Rhode Island) and were Sabbath-keepers in what appears to be the late 17th and early 18th centuries ((Dedication of Minsters' Monument, Aug. 28, 1899. By Hopkinton (R.I. : Town). First Hopkinton Cemetery Association, First Hopkinton Cemetery Association, Hopkinton, R.I. First Hopkinton cemetery association. Published by Printed for the Association by the American Sabbath tract society, 1899. Original from the University of Michigan. Digitized Mar 15, 2006, pp. 6,22).  The fact that was a reasonably long list (about 150 names) shows that Sabbath-keepers did come to the New World, and not just a few of them. I also found another manifest that some came over in 1854.

Another report states:

Tradition persists that the family of COTTRELL (also spelled as Cotterell, Catterell, etc.) was among the first of the Albigenses to find refuge in England, predating the Huguenot movement (Bierce, Thurber Hoffman and Cottrell, Lisle. Ancestors in the United States of Byron H. Bierce and His Wife Mary Ida Cottrell of Cortland County, New York, 1962. Original from the University of Wisconsin - Madison. Digitized Jun 6, 2007, p. 94).

So we see that for at least two centuries, there was a Sabbath-keeping family in the Americas that came from Europe (and it is possible that this family was in the true church from no later than the 12th century) though apparently many of them came Adventists in the latter portion of the 19th century (I heard that there had been Cottrells in the 20th century who had once been part of the old WCG in Canada, but have not been able to verify this personally). I have personally spoken with retired Seventh-day Adventist minister, Stanley Cottrell (who often lectures on church history), who verified the Richard Nickels account with me on 7/29/08 and 7/30/08. Stanley Cottrell specifically confirmed that his family came from the Albigenses in France, moved to England, Anglicized their name, came to Rhode Island in 1638, and were seventh-day Sabbath-keepers.

I should probably add that in 1860 the group opposing the name Seventh Day Adventist became known as the Church of God (Seventh Day), though sadly some of Roswell Cottrell's descendants decided to become Seventh Day Adventists (and also SDBs) and not hold to all the historic COG teachings.

Three Unique Doctrines

According to A.N. Dugger, there are three unique doctrines that separated the COGs from the Protestant sects: The observance of the seventh day Sabbath, nontrinitarianism, and teaching against the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. According to A.N. Dugger and C.O. Dodd, only the COGs held ALL three of those doctrines. And he may have been correct in that:

From the quotation taken from the letter of the Sabbatarian Baptist, Elder William Davis, it is noted that this noted Sabbatarian of whom he speaks was not only a Sabbath-keeper, but also one who held to the truth of the individuality of Jesus Christ and his heavenly Father, and the Holy Spirit of God, and to the truth of immortality only through Christ. There is no body of Christians in the world, with the exception of the Church of God, which teaches all three of these beautiful truths, hence, we know this man was of the Church of God, and contended for the "faith which was once delivered unto the saints." (Dugger AN, Dodd CO. A History of True Religion, 3rd ed. Jerusalem, 1972 (Church of God, 7th Day). 1990 reprint, p. 278).

In the quotation they refer to, W. Davis calls the non-Seventh Day Baptist one with an "Anti-Trinitarian error." Throughout history, the true Church of God has been binitarian (an article of related interest may be Binitarian View: One God, Two Beings Before the Beginning). In August 1924, CG7 officially wrote the following about the Godhead:

The Church of God recognizes two Divine Beings called God, the Father and Jesus Christ His Son. (General Conference Report, Catalog of Minutes. Stanberry, Missouri, August 1924, pp. 1-2 as quoted by Robert Coulter to Bob Thiel via telephone on 11/14/12; also Coulter, The Journey: A History of the Church of God (Seventh Day), p. 194)

And it is not just binitarianism that marked the most faithful. Throughout recorded history, the true COG generally also observed of the Passover on the 14th day of Nisan (see article on Passover). A newspaper account reported that this was reported to be observed in the USA, by a Sabbath-keeping congregation, as early as the late 1600s.

CGA did not seem to do this originally, but it was advocated in 1872 and basically accepted from then on (Coulter, The Journey: A History of the Church of God (Seventh Day), p. 182). CG7 officially declared it in 1917 (Ibid, p. 183).

CG7 still does this, as do those remaining in the Thyatira, Philadelphia, and Laodicean portions of the COG.

CG7 used to teach church eras, but now it does not. Yet Dugger & Dodd's writings did endorse Church Eras as did some of their earlier writers,

J.T. Williamson in the April 1, Bible Advocate said, "to properly describe the conditions of this Church, from Christ's first advent until His second coming, this entire period of time [of the New Testament Church] is subdivided into seven periods...The first period or Apostolic age is called the Church of Ephesus"...He goes on to divide Church history into seven periods, based on the seven churches (Nickels R. Seven Churches of Revelation. Study 164. G&S).

Sardis Continues to Have a Name, But Changed Doctrines and ...

Not all during the Sardis era were officially part of CGA/CG7.

Some were associated with them for a time, but left--many for doctrinal reasons.

Church of God related leaders such as G.G. Rupert, R.K. Walker, Frank Walker, and J.W. Rich had “Anglo-Israel” (also known as “British-Israelism”) beliefs and teachings in the early 20th century:

In 1920, R.K. Walker moved to Finley, Oklahoma, and soon met Elder M.W. Unzicker at Sardis, Oklahoma. This was the first Church of God man he had met. At the behest of Walker, Unzicker held meetings at Finley, and baptized Frank Walker to be a Church of God evangelist for the Oklahoma Conference, and Walker began his first meeting for the Church of God on May 19, 1923. Frank Walker began preaching at Crowder, Oklahoma in 1924. In 1987, Elder Frank Walker was independent and still publishing a paper, Hope of Israel, from St. Maries, Idaho.

It is interesting that the Walkers, Rupert and Rich held to "Anglo-Israel" beliefs. So did an Elder Ziegler, who put out a paper, The Torch of Israel, published in Washington, D.C. Ziegler tried unsuccessfully to work with Eyler.

G.G. Rupert established his own paper, the Remnant of Israel, published in Britton, Oklahoma, beginning in 1915. Rupert, a former Seventh Day Adventist minister, taught and practiced the keeping of all the annual sabbaths, or holy days. He also had a form of "British Israelism"...Rupert's article on the holy days was printed in the Bible Advocates of 1913, and two of Rupert's most popular books were the Yellow Peril and Inspired History of the Nations. (Nickels R.C. History of the Seventh Day Church of God. Giving & Sharing, Neck City (MO), 1988, p.76).

In December, 1919, Merritt Dickinson of Longdale, Oklahoma wrote a series of articles in the Advocate...Dickinson stated in the article that England is Ephraim and America is Manasseh, and presumably the rest of the Ten Lost Tribes are in northwestern Europe. (Ibid, p. 142)

And while versions of this view are still held by most groups with origins in the old WCG, the main CG7 group, never would teach it (despite A.N. Dugger admitting its truth in a letter to Herbert W. Armstrong; see photo of letter from A.N. Dugger, dated July 28, 1929 in Autobiography, 1973 edition, p.372). A.N. Dugger also admitted the truth of the Anglo-Israelism doctrine to Merritt Dickinson in 1912, but A.N. Dugger would not teach it (Nickels, p. 143).

Herbert W. Armstrong as well as G.G. Rupert felt that what Christ said regarding Sardis described the Church of God, Seventh Day (CG7) (Nickels R.C. Six Paper on the History of the Church of God. Giving & Sharing, Neck City (MO), 1993, p.196). Specifically Herbert Armstrong wrote about events in 1931:

After about two week of our Umapine meetings, a letter from Mrs. Florence Curtis, secretary of the State Conference, informed us that a business meeting had been called...At precisely 5:30 the next morning, Mr. and Mrs. Preston and I bade Elder Dailey goodbye...

This Umapine experience was one more in which no fruit could be borne as long as I teamed with one of the ministers of this church, connected with, or springing from the Stanberry, Missouri, political center...

Later research into church history identified where we stood, at the moment, in the prophecy concerning the seven stages, or eras of God's Church from the time of the original apostles, up to Christ's return to earth and establishment of the Kingdom of God. I had been fellowshipping with, working with, the latter part of the Sardis era, as described in Christ's own words in Revelation 3:1-5 (Armstrong HW. Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong, 1973 edition, p. 450).

Herbert W. Armstrong also taught that there were at least 18 biblical truths that the true COG originally had, but were lost by the main body in the Sardis era. And these truths are in addition to those "unique ones" that A.N. Dugger reported were minimal requirements of the COG (as well as many others that the COG has held throughout history).

It should be emphasized that even CG7 admits that it changed some of its early teachings. Notice what a retired former president of CG7, Robert Coulter, admitted on two of the restored truths:

... there was a point in time when some ministers in the Church of God (Seventh Day) taught that we were begotten but not born again ...

But that was a temporary thing [in the CG7]. It was like going through a phase. The church finally said, no, our conversion is a completed work. When Jesus said you must be born again, He facilitates the spiritual rebirth of the convert, and it’s a completed work. We continued then to strive for sanctification, a lifelong process.

Anyway, we abandoned that position years and years ago... (Cartwright D. Former CG7 president gives his understanding of history of Church of God and Mr. Armstrong. The Journal: News of the Churches of God. Sep-Dec 2008).

Thus, CG7 admits that it changed (or in Herbert W. Armstrong words, lost) at least two of the truths that it once had. Robert Coulter admitted this and more to me personally when I met with him in 2015. (As far as 'born again' and the Hope of Israel goes, check out the article Born Again: A Question of Semantics?).

CCOG’s Bob Thiel and CG7’s Robert Coulter

Recall that Jesus taught, "you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God."

Since Herbert W. Armstrong's death in January 1986, CG7-Denver has more and more failed to "strengthen the things which remain" and has made the move towards becoming more Protestant.

As recently as October 2003, its president urged its members to celebrate Reformation Month and to meditate on Martin Luther's accomplishments (note: there is a branch of CG7 from Meridian Idaho that has not made that type of error).

CG7-Denver is heading further towards Protestantism and is warned that its most of its members will not notice when Jesus will come (Revelation 3:3), but a few may as CG7 does still observe the seventh-day Sabbath, observes the Passover on the 14th of Nisan, keeps the ten commandments, etc.).

CG7 also no longer teaches Church eras, though it once did (see A. Dugger's A History of the True Religion, 1990 reprint). It also down plays prophecy (please see in the article Church of God, Seventh Day). It no longer emphasizes the "age to come" doctrine that its earliest pioneers embraced.

CG7 teaches that most of the Olivet prophecies (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21) have been fulfilled, that there are no future powerful beasts of Revelation 13, and that Christians are not prophesied to experience the persecutions shown in Daniel and Revelation (they teach that they have come to pass, see Coulter, The Journey: A History of the Church of God (Seventh Day), pp. 204, 206-207, 210 as well as the article Church of God, Seventh Day).

The current CG7's lack of prophetic knowledge (which may even be a residual effect of being turned off the subject because of Ellen White) is probably part of why Jesus warned Sardis, "you will not know what hour I will come upon you" (Revelation 3:3).

CG7 also does seem to fulfill the prophesy to it that it has "a name that you are alive, but you are dead." While this may also been true of the Church in Sardis in the late 16th century, it is true of CG7 in the 21st century (more information can be found in the article Church of God, Seventh Day).

Ancient Sardis

As far as anicient Sardis goes, closer to the time that Revelation was written, notice the following:


   Sardis was founded in the twelfth century before Christ, and was one of the oldest and most important cities of Asia. It was located about thirty-five miles southeast of Thyatira. Until captured by Cyrus in 549 B.C., Sardis was the capital of the kingdom of Lydia, and became so again after the fall of the Roman power in Asia in A. D. 395. Lydia was one of the richest kingdoms of the ancient world. The Lydians are reputed to have been the inventors of coined money. Speaking of their wealth, the historian Ridpath says: "A great cause of the prosperity and wealth of the Lydian kingdom was the natural fertility of the country. No other of all Asia Minor had so rich a soil.

   The ancient city of Sardis was built on a plateau of crumbling rock rising 1,500 feet above the plain. The plateau was a part of Mount Tomolus, whose height was 6,700 feet. The walls of the elevation on which the city was built were almost perpendicular, and the city was inaccessible except by one narrow passage which was steep and easily fortified and guarded. Sardis was considered an impregnable fortress.

Citizens Overconfident

   The natural defenses of Sardis made the guards and citizens proud and overconfident. The walls were carelessly guarded, with sometimes fatal results. Because of the failure of the guards to watch, Cyrus captured the city by stratagem in 549 B. C. Solon had warned Croesus not to be too confident of safety from attack, but even after the army of Cyrus appeared on the plain below, he saw no reason for concern. But the unexpected happened. One dark night a Persian soldier resolved "to approach the citadel" and attempt to climb the precipice "at a place where no guards were ever set." There the rock was so "precipitous and impracticable" that it would seem impossible to scale it. Herodotus says that the soldier "climbed the rock himself and other Persians followed in his track, until a large number had mounted to the top. Thus Sardis was taken, and given up entirely to pillage. "But the lesson was soon forgotten, for 330 years later the city was again captured through stratagem by Antiochus the Great.

Appropriate Message

   Sardis means "those escaping" or "that which remains. "The name, the message, and the subsequent history of the city and church, indicate a good start but a bad finish, a change for the worse. Sir William Ramsay calls Sardis "the city of death." Its history is just the opposite of that of Smyrna, which "Was dead and is alive;" or is "the city of life." Sardis had "a name that thou livest, and art dead." Like Ephesus, the city and church of Sardis began with a glorious history and ended in a heap of ruins.

   Sardis is now heaps of ruins, with no signs of life. It is indeed "the city of death."

   Sardis never fully recovered from the earthquake of A.D. 17, and was only partially rebuilt. When this epistle was written, the city was rapidly waning in prestige and glory, but its inhabitants were still boastful of the reputation and history of the past. Decay and death were inevitable, but the Sardians refused to recognize the fate of the city and continued to live on its ancient glory. The city had a name only, whereas in reality it was dead, or rapidly dying. (Bunch, Taylor G. The Seven Epistles of Christ. Washington, DC: Review and Herald Publishing Assn., 1947 as cited in The Seven Cities of Asia Minor, Ambassador College Study Guide, pre-1987, pp. 7-8).

My wife and I have visited this area. Here is a link to: Joyce's Photos of Sardis.


The Sardis Church has an interesting, though not particularly bold, history. For the most part, it was relatively unorganized until the early 20th century.

The separating of the Church of God from those known as Seventh Day Baptists (SDBs) and those known as Seventh Day Adventists (SDAs) seems to have also occurred during this era of the church in the 18th and 19th centuries. Both the SDBs and SDAs now are fairly closely aligned with Protestant doctrines and other than the Sabbath, no longer hold many of the teachings unique to the true Church of God.

Over time, the Sardis era has lost more and more truth that it once had.

The Sardis era itself became less dominant in the 1930s, as the Philadelphia era of the true Church of God began to emerge. And although there are many still today in remnants of the Sardis Churches, the fact is that Jesus suggests that only a few of them are worthy to walk with Him today. And that nearly all affiliated will not understand end-time prophetic events. Sardis is a chuch that Jesus truly warned about, though He praised Philadelphia.

More information can be found in the article The Philadelphia Church.

Here is a link to: Joyce's Photos of Sardis.

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B. Thiel, Ph.D. The Sardis Church Era. (c) 2006/2007/2008/2009/2010/2011/2012/2013/2014/2017/2018/2019 0305

The Churches of Revelation 2 & 3 from circa 31 A.D. to present
The Ephesus Church Era predominant from circa 31 A.D. to circa 135 A.D.
The Smyrna Church Era predominant circa 135 A.D. to circa 450 A.D.
The Pergamos Church Era predominant circa 450 A.D. to circa 1050 A.D.
The Thyatira Church Era predominant circa 1050 A.D. to circa 1600 A.D.
The Sardis Church Era predominant circa 1600 A.D. to circa 1933 A.D.
The Philadelphia Church Era predominant circa 1933 A.D. to 1986 A.D.
The Laodicean Church Era predominant circa 1986 A.D. to present

Continuing History of the Church of God This pdf booklet is a historical overview of the true Church of God and some of its main opponents from 31 A.D. to the 21st century