With the Seventh Angel
At Benton Harbor, Michigan
Chicago, Ill. SUNDAY RECORD HERALD
Joan of Arc, listening to mystic voices under the Druid oak of Domremy, was a daughter of France. England of the eighteenth century had a Joan, also, who found herself endowed with the gift of prophecy. She, too, puzzled the minds of men because though an illiterate woman, she wrote in prose and verse, setting forth in pamphlets and letters religious teachings she felt impelled to impart. This English visionary, Joanna Southcott, born in Devonshire in 1750, was of humble parentage and served as a humble domestic until 1792 when she declared herself the woman driven into the wilderness spoken of in the Book of Revelations. From that time until her death in 1814, she preached, delivering what she believed to be her inspired message and gathering about her a large following.
A short sketch of Joanna is given in encyclopedias, but they do not contain the information that she is first of seven angels mentioned by John in the Book of Revelations. John was told to write of the mysteries revealed to him because they were to be sealed until the interpretation should be given by the Seventh Angel. This seventh angel is Benjamin, religious head of the Israelite House of David, a religious and communistic colony at Benton Harbor, Michigan.
Benton Harbor is a Michigan town, well known to Chicagoans. The Graham and Morton line of boats, the Cupid line, which carry so many to St. Joe, the marrying town, during the summer time, goes on to Benton Harbor, which is connected with St. Joe by a bridge over the St. Joe River. Benton Harbor is thus for the Saturday tourist practically one with St. Joe; though the 2 towns, like all towns so related, are natural rivals.
Such a country near a large city like Chicago attracts summer visitors. When Brother Benjamin selected Benton Harbor as the ingathering place of the remnant of the people of Israel to be saved by listening to his message, he displayed a degree of wisdom not always allied to the gift of spiritual prophecy. In a booklet addressed to the twelve tribes whom he hopes to gather in, until 12,000 of each, the chosen number of the saved- soul, spirit and body- are brought to Zion, he explains that Benton Harbor is in the "heart of the most healthful summer resorts in America", where thousands of people seeking rest and recreation find Israel's faith more attractive than worldly pleasures. Without solicitation thousands have voluntarily visited the Israelite colony from all quarters of the globe, and the literature declaring the teaching of Jesus has found wide circulation.
Through this literature- pamphlets and booklets setting forth the teaching and a monthly journal. "Shiloh's Messenger of Wisdom"- and through preaching done in the various parts of the world, word is being sent of the ingathering of the elect.
It is six years since the Israelite House of David was established just without the limits of Benton Harbor. It is reached by motor car bearing a sign "The House of David". The ride is a short one. On the way one is sure to see some of the masculine members of the community. They are easily distinguished, as they follow Biblical instruction and cut neither hair nor beard. Both are exceptionally luxuriant. In most cases the flowing hair is curly so that one light minded individual hazarded a bet that the Israelites put their hair up in curl papers.
The name Israelite is a trifle misleading, as is a sign, "end of the line", just above the entrance to their amusement park, the Springs of Eden. The sign is placed so as to be read easily from the motor car as it approaches. The sign really refers to a miniature railway line, which runs through the Springs of Eden. It costs .10 to take the round trip on this pygmy railway. Each of the cars bears the letters B. and M. for Benjamin and Mary. In this community women share the honors with men. Mary, wife of Benjamin, is pictured with him, and shares his work, while the corporate name of the community is "Benjamin and Mary Purnell, the Israelite House of David, the Church of the New Eve, the Body of Christ."
The word Israelite, often used in the sense of Jew, is by followers of Brother Benjamin applied to that elect number of the twelve tribes of Israel, 144,000 in all, both Jew and Gentile, who shall be redeemed in body, soul and spirit, and receive the glory of the sun, one hundred fold as the first-born of many brethren. Benjamin's followers do not deny salvation to others. To those who seek the salvation of the soul, and live so that the body dies, is granted the glory of the moon only, which is sixty fold. To these, having lost their mortal bodies through death, will granted a reunion of the soul and spirit, forming a spiritual body, made like unto angels. The rest of the dead shall not live until a thousand years have passed and shall receive another glory, that of the stars, thirty fold.
The essential point in the belief taught by Benjamin is that those who follow his teaching and are of the chosen shall redeem their bodies here by keeping the body as the temple of the Lord, undefiled. Therefore they eat no meats. At the restaurant of the Park Springs of Eden an excellent meal can be obtained, but no flesh is on the menu. And though women have a voice in all community affairs, and family life as it exists before joining the community is not broken up, marriage is not practiced.
The community now numbers about 600 people. Benjamin and Mary, in a trip around the world, visited Australia. They found there a large number ready to listen to the call, having been prepared for the teachings by John Wroe, the fifth messenger or angel. Followers of this fifth messenger, John, and of the sixth in the line, James Jezreel, have realized that Benjamin's coming fulfilled prophecies of the messengers who preceded him. Four years and a half ago nearly one hundred of these Australians returned with Benjamin and Mary. Their influx accounts for the soft voices and English accent common in the colony, though other nationalities are represented among them-Danes, Germans, and Italians. Benjamin is the first of seven messengers of American nationality. He was born in Kentucky. Before he heard the call he was an itinerant Campbellite, preaching wherever he could find listeners, on street corners, at state fairs in little out-of-the-way towns.
His six predecessors-Joanna Southcott, Richard Brothers, George Turner, William Shaw, John Wroe, and James Jezreel were all English.
James Jezreel's teachings were embodied in a book called, "Extracts from the Flying Roll". The roll refers to a roll of a book mentioned in Ezekiel 11:9 and in Zechariah 5:14. The book which Benjamin has prepared for the chosen ones and which is given only to those in the faith, is called, "The Star of Bethlehem". This book according to Benjamin finishes the mystery and brings man into knowledge of the whole scriptures, which bring him into the perfect image and likeness of God.
The colony is communistic. Each member gives his possessions, labor and earnings. The needs of all are supplied from the common holdings. They regard themselves as a large family, and, apart from what those not sharing the belief consider religious vagaries, are practical enough in the conduct of their business. They own 1000 acres of good Michigan land, set out in fruit and grains.
Most of the trades are represented among them, and to a large extent they supply their own wants. Their land is divided into farm holdings of 80 acres, and families put in charge. A family may be a group of Israelites or an actual family as it came in from the outside world. Most of the children are at the farm, though some are at the group of buildings just outside Benton Harbor. In this group are three imposing structures. Two joined by an arch are called Bethlehem and Jerusalem. The administration building is built of concrete blocks made by the Israelites themselves. Smaller houses, some wood, some bark, are used for various purposes. Biblical names are given to these smaller structures, as Ark and Shiloh. Papers and books are printed in an office open to visitors. A carpenter shop, a tailor shop, a cannery, a sawmill, a laundry and a drying house are all included among the working buildings.
At the Park Springs of Eden, in a ravine a short distance from the administration building is a pleasing building in mission style, where vegetarian meals are served. Here people seeking a rest may secure rooms for a day, a week or the summer.
The Park has a theatre for moving pictures, rustic bridges, mineral water springs, a collection of animals and birds, stands for the sale of souvenirs, bandstands, and an amphitheater where services are held on Sundays. All days are holy to the Israelites, but Sunday is observed, as on this day outsiders will come to listen to the message. The community is musical and has five bands and two orchestras. The schools are controlled by the County superintendent, but are taught by members of the community and supported by the colony.
Members in joining take the Nazarite vow and sign the Roll, but there are no restrictions, and should one desire to marry after the manner of worldly people, he is free to leave the community. A desire for life so ardent that from it springs belief that it may be obtained by keeping the soul pure, in a pure body- this seems to be the basis of the Israelite faith. Men may smile at simplicity of such faith; may realize the weakness of its institutions, the futility of its methods; and may scoff at the individuals holding it; yet the ideal itself is that which, in all ages has moved mankind to lift itself into higher, if not eternal life. Henry Barrett Chamberlin
HISTORY: Mary's City of David is in its 73th year from the Reorganization of the Israelite House of David, 1930; in its 100th year from the founding of the Israelite House of David by Mary and Benjamin Purnell in 1903. The Israelite movement is now in its 210th year from Joanna Southcott, the first messenger, 1792, Devonshire, England.
The first 6 Churches were all in England, and were the complete first 100 years of this history: 1792 through 1892; there is now 111 years within the Seventh Church chronicles. The roots of our faith now can be traced to Jane Lead and her Philadelphian Society, 1652, in England.
Remnants of Joanna Southcott's following still exist to this day, called the Panacea Society, and the Southcottian Society.
The Christian Israelite Church, founded in 1822 at Bradford, England, is the society founded by the 5th Messenger John Wroe, which are headquartered today in Australia.
Mary's City of David is the third oldest Christian Community order in America; the United Society of Shakers at Sabbath day Lake, Maine are longer in existence as a practicing Christian Community, and the Hutterite communities in Montana pre-date the Israelite House of David.