Ellen G. White,
Messenger Of God
Of all the pioneers the one who has had the greatest permanent effect on the Adventist people was Ellen Gould Harmon, a twin, born November 26, 1827, in Gorham, Maine. She was one of eight children. Her parents, God-fearing Christians of the Methodist Episcopal faith, were in moderate circumstances so far as this world's goods were concerned. When Ellen was only a little girl, the family moved to Portland, where most of her early life was spent.
As a young girl she was possessed of a sunny, cheerful disposition, and gave promise of a higher than ordinary intellectual development. The parents held high hopes for her future. Her schooling was progressing very well, when at the age of nine an accident overtook her which was to affect her whole life.
While she was on her way home from school one day in company with some other girls, an older girl, becoming angry at something Ellen did or said, threw a rock which struck her a terrible blow on the nose. She was knocked unconscious and lay in a stupor for about three weeks. All hope for her recovery was given up by all of her relatives except her mother. Ellen was so weakened by loss of blood and the shock that even after the crisis had passed, she was forced to spend many weeks in bed.
One day her curiosity was aroused by overhearing a visitor say, "What a pity, I should not have known her." Whereupon the girl asked for a mirror and discovered that her face was disfigured by the terrible mishap. Her father was in Georgia at the time of the accident, and when he returned did not know his daughter on account of her broken nose. The realization of her deformity made her self-conscious and timid, and she withdrew from the association of others. This girl who had formerly been of an optimistic, sunny disposition became melancholy and spent her time alone, timidly retiring from the gaze of the more fortunate ones.
In this period of great trial when deep shadows came into her life, she lost all desire to live. She sought lonely places where she might brood over her affliction. She preferred death to the life she saw ahead of her. It seemed her lot was harder than she could bear. And yet she had always been of a religious disposition, and as she spent her time in solitude, she was drawn closer to God and developed a deeper Christian experience.
Ellen's health was hopelessly impaired as the result of her accident. For two years following the accident she was unable to breathe through her nose. For this reason she could attend school very little, and was very slow in her studies. It was difficult for her to concentrate on her lessons and to retain what she had learned. The girl who had brought this great misfortune to her little friend was appointed to assist her in her studies and was truly sorry for the great hardship, which she had caused by her unbridled anger. She did all she could to atone for the injury she had wrought. Nevertheless she could not undo the act.
Ellen's nerves were shattered, and her hand trembled so that she made but little progress in writing. When she tried to read, the letters of the text seemed to run together on the page. As a result of her great effort, she would grow faint, and great drops of perspiration would form on her brow. Her physical condition was so weak and her progress so unpromising that her teachers finally advised her to withdraw from school until her health should warrant her taking up her studies once more. Thus at the age of ten her formal schooling practically ceased. Contrast the condition of this ambitious girl before her accident with her condition after she was forced to give up the development of her intellectual powers in school. Of this period in her life she afterward said:
"My ambition to become a scholar had been very great, and when I pondered over my disappointed hopes, and the thought that I was to be an invalid for life, despair seized me. The future stretched out before me dark and cheerless, without one ray of light. I was unreconciled to my lot, and at times I murmured against the providence of God in thus afflicting me."
From this time on she experienced periods of the deepest despair on account of her physical and mental condition. The future offered no encouragement.
In March, 1840, William Miller conducted a series of meetings in Portland. His lectures thrilled the countryside, and the whole city was stirred. Day after day the people from the rural section surrounding Portland flocked into town to hear the man of God give the solemn warning: "Prepare to meet thy God." They brought their lunches in baskets, came to town early in the morning, and did not return until after the evening meeting. At the age of thirteen Ellen, who had been a member of the Methodist Church for some time, heard this stirring message, and, feeling that she was not ready to meet God, went forward at the first opportunity when the invitation was given for saints and sinners to come forward for prayers. The Harmon family did not definitely align themselves with William Miller at this time, but, with hundreds of others, were greatly interested. The following summer at a Methodist camp meeting she experienced conversion and received the assurance of her acceptance by God. Something of her independence is seen in her insistence upon immersion. Accordingly, she was baptized in the Atlantic Ocean.
At this time, feeling her need of an education in order to be of greater service to God, Miss Harmon made one more determined effort to secure a scholastic training, and enrolled in a women's seminary. It soon became evident that she would have to cease her studies or pay for the effort. Sorrowfully she turned from this final effort to secure an education. In view of her meager literary equipment we marvel at the beauty of her writing and the simplicity, purity, and directness of her style in her many volumes. Equipped with only three or four years of schooling in childhood, she developed into one of the most prolific of writers, with a style admired by the most critical.
At a second series of advent meetings at Portland in 1842, the Harmon family became Adventists. So zealous was the Harmon family in discussing the new-found hope and attending the advent meetings, that the Methodists felt compelled to ask them to withdraw from the church. This severance of a forty-year connection on the part of the elder Harmons was due to the strong conviction that they had found new light and had a duty to walk in it. Tens of thousands at this time looked with joyful anticipation to the coming of Christ.
In looking back on this period of her life years afterward, Miss Harmon said: "This was the happiest year of my life. My heart was full of glad expectation; but I felt great pity and anxiety for those who were in discouragement and had no hope in Jesus. We united, as a people, in earnest prayer for a true experience and the unmistakable evidence of our acceptance with God."
When the day of Christ's expected coming passed, thousands turned back to walk no more in the advent hope. It was a time of bitter disappointment. A little handful submitted patiently to the ordeal of persecution, scorn, and scoffing of the cold and unsympathizing world. During this trying time Miss Harmon's health failed rapidly. Her voice became so weak she could not speak above a whisper except in a broken tone. One physician pronounced her disease dropsical consumption, saying that her right lung was entirely gone and her left one was affected. Her condition was such that she often awoke with her mouth full of blood. No one would have been surprised had she died suddenly.
At this time Miss Harmon received her first vision, which occurred in December, 1844. On this occasion she, with four other women, was kneeling in worship, when she seemed to be surrounded with a glorious light and felt herself rising higher and higher above the earth. She was shown the advent people, Christ's Second Coming, and the new earth. Her second vision, which followed soon after the first, bade her relate the things which had been revealed to her. She was shown that she would meet with opposition and would suffer much by reason of her visions, but that the grace of God would sustain her.
This heavenly charge brought great distress to the timid, retiring seventeen year old girl. At this time her frail body, wasted by disease, weighed only seventy pounds. As she struggled over this call to duty, she tells us, she preferred death to the fulfillment of such a mission. Finally she submitted to the will of God and stood ready to do His bidding. Soon the way opened for her to visit different towns in company with friends to give the messages entrusted to her. One of the first opportunities was a trip to Poland, Maine, thirty-six miles from her home. For three months before this time her throat had been so weak she could talk but little and only in a low, husky voice. On this occasion she began to bear her testimony in a whisper, continuing thus for about five minutes; then her voice became clear and strong, and she continued talking for nearly two hours.
Soon after this, the way opened for her to go to Orrington, Exeter, and Garland, in the eastern part of Maine. James White heard her testimony at Orrington, and was convinced that her visions were from heaven. About two years before, on a visit to Portland, he had seen her, and had been impressed by her remarkable Christian experience, as she was asked by revivalists to exhort their congregations. Now he was convinced that in her youth and her frailty, she needed a strong protector and associate, and soon after, arranged to travel with her as she went from place to place to bear testimony of what had been revealed to her. Ellen Harmon, in all this, was jealous of her reputation, and it was arranged that one of her sisters', or some other member of her family, should accompany her, lest the voice of scandal should find occasion to speak evil. In due time the association thus formed between James White and Ellen Harmon led to their life union.
During the years immediately following the great disappointment, Miss Harmon was engaged principally in fighting fanaticism. In October, 1844, many Adventists had pinned their faith fully and completely on Christ's coming. So certain were they that Christ was coming on the tenth day of the seventh month, that when He did not visibly appear in the clouds of heaven, they felt that He must have come invisibly or spiritually. Many felt certain that the twenty three hundred year prophetic period ended without a doubt, and that something definite had happened. Many were the conjectures as to the nature of the event.
Some felt that the time calculation was in error, and these began setting new dates for Christ's coming. All was confusion. Different ones went about the country trying to bring others to see their viewpoint. Among these were James White, Ellen Harmon, Joseph Bates. Often several traveled in a group, but at other times Ellen and another woman went together. Others felt that on October 22, 1844, the first six thousand years of earth's history had closed, and that the seventh millennium was sabbatical, and was therefore set apart as a period of rest. They believed it wrong to work or to bother with the cares of this world. They allowed their families or friends to care for their temporal needs, while they rebuked them for being troubled with the affairs of this world. Many felt sanctified and thought that they could not sin. Under the guise of this delusion some were practicing a type of immorality called spiritual wifery. Some followed impressions which they believed, or pretended to believe, came from God. Often such impressions followed sinful inclinations. These influences had a desolating effect, sweeping many of the small number who remained interested in the advent, away from their moorings, some following the fanaticism, and others casting away their faith in disgust at the extremists.
Into this sea of fanaticism went James White and Ellen Harmon, with warnings and protests. Time and time again Miss Harmon directed instruction to individuals in regard to their wrong course. Again and again her reproof or correction was prefaced with "I was shown," as she gave an individual instruction, which she had received in vision.
As has been stated, Miss Harmon's nerves were so prostrated when she was a little girl that she could not write. Her hand trembled so that she was unable to hold the pen steady enough to do any good in this attempt. While in vision, she was commanded by the angel to write what had been shown her. She obeyed, and her nerves were strengthened and her hand steadied. Her thousands of pages of manuscript show a clear, steady handwriting.
On one occasion Miss Harmon felt impressed to go to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. She had no money for fare, but prepared to go, trusting in the Lord for funds. When it was about time for her to start, a brother drove up in great haste, asking if there was any one there in need of money, and saying that he had been impressed of a need. He drove the trio-Ellen Harmon and her sister and James White to the depot, and gave them enough money for the round trip.
J. N. Loughborough, who stated that he had seen Ellen Harmon in vision nearly fifty times and had talked with those who witnessed her early visions, described them as follows: As she was taken away in vision she would give three shouts, speaking the word "glory!" The first shout sounded as if coming from the upper part of the room, the second sounded still farther off, and the third shout resembled that of a voice in the distance. With this shout the Spirit of God settled down on all in the room. After the third shout, for a half minute or more, she lost all strength. When she was lost in vision while standing, she gradually sank to the floor as though unseen hands had gently placed her there. The action of the heart and pulse was natural, but she did not breathe. Her eyes were open as though looking into the distance. After the first moment of weakness, a superhuman power came upon her. She would sometimes move gracefully about the room, but in whatever position her arm was placed, it was impossible for strong men to move it so much as an inch. Physicians examined her, according to Elder Loughborough, and found not a single bit of breath.
One of her most spectacular visions occurred at Boston when she was in vision nearly four hours. Part of the time she walked about the room speaking in a clear, loud voice. Her opponents tried to sing, shout, and read loudly from the Bible in an effort to silence her and wear her out, but were finally silenced themselves. In this vision she held a large family Bible in one hand, open above her head, and turned the leaves with the other hand, repeating correctly certain texts and pointing to them, although her eyes were turned upward.
On one occasion in Portland she had a vision in which she held a family Bible which weighed eighteen pounds, on her outstretched left hand for half an hour while walking about the room and commenting on the preciousness of God's word. Witnesses declared that in her natural strength Miss Harmon, who weighed only eighty pounds, was unable to lift this Bible, but in this vision she held it as easily as one would a pocket Testament. This manifestation of superhuman power, although not a primary test of a prophet, was convincing to many who had hitherto been unconvinced that the visions were of God.
While on a visit to New Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1846, Miss Harmon became acquainted with Joseph Bates. He was a true Christian gentleman, courteous, and kind, but after having seen Miss Harmon in vision he expressed unbelief in visions. He felt that Miss Harmon was sincere, but he. could not explain the vision. On the other hand Mr. Bates was keeping the Sabbath and urged its importance. Miss Harmon felt that Mr. Bates erred in this matter, and they separated, each convinced that the other was in error.
On August 30, 1846, Ellen Harmon was married to James White. As already mentioned, he felt that Ellen should have a protector, and he felt clear that it was his duty to take that responsibility judging from James' letters to Ellen, James was very much in love with her, and his duty by no means ran counter to his feelings. As a matter of fact, some of the advent believers at this time were opposed to the union for they felt that the end of the world was so near they should not burden themselves with matrimony. Man's reasoning could hardly be expected to prevail against God-given instincts, however, and so the fortunes of the couple were happily and profitably united.
They entered upon their life work penniless, with few friends, and broken in health. For about a year they apparently established no home, but traveled from place to place in the interests of the cause of God. When they entered upon their work, there were no meeting houses, and the believers were too few to support a tent. Consequently the meetings for the most part were held in the dwellings of the believers. The main business of the day was that of seeking out the advent believers. Usually few nonbelievers attended the meetings unless it was for the purpose of hearing a woman speak-an extraordinary thing in those days.
The hardships incident to traveling in the forties were legion, even for a strong man. We can only imagine the hardships endured by Mrs. White during the year 1847. In the midst of toil and privation, on August 26, her first baby was born. Elder White describes their life of travel that year:
"For want of means we took the cheapest private conveyance, second-class cars, and lower-deck passage on steamers. . . . When on second-class cars we were usually enveloped in tobacco smoke. This I could endure, but Mrs. White would frequently faint. When on steamers, on lower deck, we suffered the same from the, smoke of tobacco, besides the swearing and vulgar conversation of the ship hands and the baser portion of the traveling public.
"Sleeping conveniences are summed up as follows: We lie down on the hard floor, dry goods boxes or sacks of grain, with carpetbags for pillows, without covering, only overcoats and shawls. If suffering from the winter's cold, we would walk the deck to keep warm. If suffering the heat of summer, we would go upon the upper deck to secure the cool night air. This was fatiguing to Mrs. White, especially so with an infant in her arms.
"This manner of life was by no means one of our choosing. God called us in our poverty, and led us through the furnace of affliction to give us an experience which should be of great worth to us, and an example to others who should afterward join us in labor."
Shortly after their marriage James add Ellen White read together Joseph Bates' pamphlet, "The Seventh-day Sabbath," and comparing his conclusion with the Bible, accepted the Sabbath as part of the fuller light into which the Lord was leading them. Thus in the autumn of 1846 the trio of outstanding leaders of the Seventh day Adventist denomination united on the Sabbath. About six months later, on the first Sabbath in April, the importance of the Sabbath was revealed to Ellen White in a vision of the heavenly sanctuary. In a letter to Joseph Bates, dated April 7, 1847, she described what was shown to her:
"After viewing the glory of the holy, Jesus raised the second veil, and I passed into the holy of holies. In the holiest I saw an ark; on the top and sides of it was purest gold. On each end of the ark was a lovely cherub, with its wings spread out over it. Their faces were turned toward each other, and they looked downward. . . . In the ark was the golden pot of manna, Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of stone, which folded together like a book. Jesus opened them, and I saw the ten commandments written on them with the finger of God. On one table were four, and on the other six. The four on the first table shone brighter than the other six. But the fourth, the Sabbath commandment, shone above them all; for the Sabbath was set apart to be kept in honor of God's holy name. The holy Sabbath looked glorious-a halo of glory was all around it."
Joseph Bates, who by this time had become convinced of the heavenly origin of Mrs. White's visions, immediately printed this vision for circulation among the advent believers. For more than a year Mr. Bates and Mr. and Mrs. White in close fellowship stood almost alone in publicly teaching the Sabbath as a part of the advent message.
During the year 1847-48 Mrs. White and her husband were busy in an attempt to give the light of truth to the advent believers. Among other tasks which devolved upon them was that of giving publicity to the numerous visions which were given to Mrs. White. As has been previously stated, from her youth Mrs. White's hand had been so unnerved that it was only with the greatest difficulty that she could write plain enough for any one to read. With the heavenly message to "Write the things that are revealed to you," came the power to write. The trembling hand that hitherto had been able to write only a few words at a time, was strengthened so that it was able to write page after page clearly. Many of the visions were copied time after time by Mrs. White or her husband and sent out to the believers. This laborious method was a heavy tax on their limited strength. A few of the more important visions were printed on large single sheets and were given a small circulation in this form.
From the time of their marriage, for a number of years Mr. and Mrs. White lived in the straightest circumstances. In October, 1847, with borrowed furniture, they started housekeeping in part of Stockbridge Howland's house, in Topsham, Maine. Mr. White worked at day labor, and when he could not secure the amount due him because times were close, the Howlands divided their meager living with the Whites. During the midst of this hand-to-mouth existence, one day when provisions in the home were exhausted, Mr. White walked three miles and returned in the rain in order to secure from his employer money or provisions. He returned through the rain with a sack of provisions on his back, and reached home greatly fatigued. Mrs. White tells us of her feelings on that occasion: "My heart sank within me. My first feelings were that God had forsaken us. I said to my husband: "Have we come to this? Has the Lord left us?" I could not restrain my tears, and wept aloud for hours until I fainted."
Mr. and Mrs. White were careful to live within their means, and were determined to suffer rather than go into debt. In speaking of these times, Mrs. White said: "I allowed myself and child one pint of milk each day. One morning before my husband went to his work he left me nine cents to buy milk for three mornings. It was a study with me whether to buy the milk for myself and babe or get an apron for him. I gave up the milk, and purchased the cloth for an apron to cover the bare arms of my child."
There is little wonder that the child soon became ill, causing anxiety and alarm to the parents, but God in His mercy spared the infant. An urgent letter came, inviting the couple to attend a conference in Connecticut. They decided to go, provided they could obtain the means. Upon settlement with his employer, James White received ten dollars. With five dollars the thrifty housewife bought articles of clothing needed, and patched her husband's overcoat, even piecing the patches, "making it difficult to tell the original cloth in the sleeves." With the remaining five dollars they commenced the journey. Financial help was given them on the way, enabling them to reach the town where the conference was to be held, and, not having the money to hire a carriage, Mr. White threw his trunk, containing nearly all their possessions, on a pile of boards, and the two, carrying the baby, traveled in search of one of their own faith.
In the latter part of 1848 the couple were called to a conference in western New York. It was felt best to leave little Henry in Miss Clarissa Bonfoey's care at Middletown, Connecticut. This was a severe trial to Mrs. White, for she had never been away from him as much as one night before. From this time forth she was separated from her child much of the time. The Howland family kept Henry five years. Mrs. White often spoke of her sadness at being deprived of the association of her children. Of all the sacrifices that of separation from her little ones made the others pale into insignificance.
In June, 1849, Miss Bonfoey offered to live with Mr. and Mrs. White. Her parents had died recently, and a division of the estate had given her household furniture and equipment necessary for a small family to set up housekeeping. Albert Belden offered them an unfinished upper room, rent free, and Miss Bonfoey kept house for the family, using her furniture. From this unfinished room with its borrowed furniture the Whites issued Present Truth, the first periodical ever published by Seventh-day Adventists. The publication of the successive numbers of this periodical, entailing the reading of proof sheets and other work, became an important factor in Ellen White's literary training.
On July 28, 1849, Mrs. White's second child, James Edson, was born. When he was only six weeks old, in answer to what she felt was the call of duty, the mother, taking the little child, started out on a four-months journey of labor in the New England States and New York. At Paris, Maine, occurred the meeting which was a large factor in securing the services of J. N. Andrews as a worker.
In a letter written early in 1850 the reader catches a glimpse of the hardships of those months: "We love you and love to hear from you. We should have written before, but we have had no certain abiding place, but have traveled in rain, snow, and blow with the child from place to place. I could not get time to answer any letters, and it took all James' time to write for the paper and get out the hymn book. We do not have many idle moments."
Carrying all their worldly possessions, household goods, clothing, books, and other effects in a three-foot trunk, they traveled by private carriage, train, or canal boat, visiting the scattered believers.
In the autumn of 1849 they rented a house in Oswego, New York, borrowed furniture from the brethren, and commenced house keeping. While there James White became discouraged with the slender support given the paper, and resolved to discontinue publication, but his wife received two messages from God saying that he must write and publish. Much time was spent during this period in visiting among the scattered believers, pointing out error, bringing harmony out of schism and division, and correcting fanaticism.
While they were on a trip to Vermont, traveling by stagecoach, some of the brethren made up a purse of $175 and bought a horse and buggy for the couple. Three horses were brought by the brethren from which Mr. and Mrs. White were allowed to make their selection. Mrs. White had been shown this in vision the night before, and as she had been directed, chose an intelligent, beautiful, dapple chestnut. This animal, named "Old Charley," became a beloved family horse around which many cherished memories clung in later years. The covered buggy and fine. horse subjected the family to much criticism of extravagance in an early day of poverty. Nevertheless this conveyance, so kindly provided by generous brethren, enabled these servants of God to make some of the most enjoyable and restful journeys of their toil-worn experience. Sometimes Mrs. White was so worn and weak that travel in a public carriage was extremely tiring. On their first journey to Canada after receiving the horse and buggy, about every ten miles they were obliged to stop and rest. Mr. White tied the horse to graze and then spread his wife's cloak on the grass for a resting place for her.
In November, 1850, the couple were in Paris, Maine. Conditions there seemed very favorable for publication. A firm of printers offered to do the work cheaply, and William Andrews, father of J. N. Andrews, gave them a place to board at low cost. An advantage offered at Paris lay in the fact that the printing could be done in the same town, whereas both at Rocky Hill, Connecticut, and Oswego, New York, the printing office was miles removed from their place of residence, which necessitated long trips with manuscript and proof. In the face of discouragement which seemed insurmountable, Mrs. White again received instruction that it was her husband's duty to publish. Thus at the crucial moment clearly came the voice of God through His messenger.
At a conference held near Ballston, New York, in June, 1851, it was decided to publish the paper at Saratoga Springs. Accordingly a house was rented, and again with borrowed furniture the family set up housekeeping.
Many requests had come for copies of Ellen White's visions in a permanent form. Accordingly during the summer of 1851 she prepared a volume of sixty-four pages, entitled, "A Sketch of the Christian Experiences and Views of Ellen G. White." This volume is now incorporated in the book called "Early Writings" and forms pages 11 to 78 of the present edition. From this humble beginning, fifty volumes, many of them of considerable size, have come from her pen.
In the spring of 1852 the family moved to Rochester, where the first Seventh-day Adventist publishing house was set up. Here, for the first time apparently, they set up housekeeping with their own furniture. Among other purchases, Mrs. White, in a letter to the Howlands is mentioned two old bedsteads at twenty-five cents each, six mismatched chairs for a dollar, and four others with no seating for sixty-two cents. The latter, the thrifty matron seated with drilling.
The early years at Rochester were filled with trying experiences and bereavements. Of this period of her life Mrs. White wrote:
"Trials thickened around us. We had much care. The office hands boarded with us, and our family numbered from fifteen to twenty. The large conferences and the Sabbath meetings were held at our house. We had no quiet Sabbaths; for some of the sisters usually tarried all day with their children. Our brethren and sisters generally did not consider the inconvenience and additional care and expense brought upon us.
"As one after another of the office hands would come home sick, needing extra attention, I was fearful that we should sink beneath the anxiety and care. I often thought that we could endure no more; yet trials increased, and with surprise I found that we were not overwhelmed. We learned the lesson that much more suffering and trial could be borne than we had once thought possible. The watchful eye of the Lord was upon us, to see that we were not destroyed."
On August 29, 1854, the third son, William Clarence, was born. Not alone through her teachings and writings did Mrs. White place a definite mold on the advent cause, but indirectly through her influence upon her husband, while the cause was in its infancy. Time and time again she had visions which brought encouragement to her ill and discouraged companion. In Battle Creek in May, 1855, she had a vision in which she was shown that the leaders should be encouraged to exercise faith, and should have assurance of God's care and approbation. Mr. White shortly afterward manifested a cheerful optimism, and gave proof of his gradual improvement in physical health and in spirit.
Again at Topsham, Maine, in the same year she had a vision warning her husband to refrain from literally working himself to death. Although his labors, far beyond his strength, were bringing individuals into the movement, he would soon go down to the grave and his labors would be lost to the cause. No doubt twenty years' service from him was saved to the cause through her instrumentality at this time and in later instances.
In the summer of 1855 the brethren decided to move the Review from Rochester to Battle Creek, and about the first of November the little group connected with the young publishing establishment journeyed to that comparatively new State in the West. Shortly after their removal to Battle Creek, Mrs. White wrote a letter to Mrs. Howland which well expresses her satisfaction in her new home life: "I feel thankful that I can now have my children with me under my own watch care, and can better train them in the right way."
At the conference held in Battle Creek in November, 1855, Joseph Bates, J. H. Waggoner, and M. E. Cornell were appointed to address the conference on the gifts of the church. This address, printed in the Review shortly afterward, was "the first official pronouncement through the Review regarding the manifestation of the gift of prophecy in the remnant church. It marks the beginning of a public recognition of the special gift bestowed on the church through revelations to Mrs. White and of frequent allusions to her work."
At this same conference the time for beginning the Sabbath was brought up, and the discussion became earnest. After J. N. Andrews' paper setting forth the Scriptural evidences for sunset time had been presented, Joseph Bates and some others were still unconvinced that six o'clock was not the correct time. At the close of the conference a group, feeling the seriousness of the situation, had a special season of prayer for the general welfare of the cause. In that meeting Mrs. White had a vision in which, among other things, she was shown that the sunset time is the correct time. That settled the matter, and general harmony prevailed. This brings to light one of the great services of Mrs. White to the Adventist Church. In time of crisis, when division was apparent, her counsel and messages were recognized as the voice of God, and strong men yielded points of difference and gave way to the messages. Thus was harmony wrought and peace was left where disruption had threatened.
Up until this time most of Mrs. White's testimonies had been written to individuals. From this time henceforth she began publishing messages to the entire church. The first was issued in a sixteen-page pamphlet bearing the title, "Testimony for the Church." The pamphlets were offered for distribution in the Review, and any one desiring them could secure them free of charge. This was the beginning of an enterprise which was to grow from the modest sixteen pages to nine volumes containing nearly five thousand pages.
In December, 1855, she fell and sprained her ankle. This was so serious that she was obliged to use crutches for six weeks. In December, 1856, while at Round Grove, Illinois, Mrs. White was shown in vision that the little group at Waukon, Iowa, had "become drunk with the spirit of the world." In view of this, she asked two of the brethren to drive her and Mr. White to Waukon. This was a drive of two hundred miles in an open sleigh in severe winter weather. On the way a storm ensued and so blocked the roads with snowdrifts that they were obliged to wait day after day for nearly a week before completing their journey.
As they continued on their journey they were able to make but slow progress, for often they were obliged to stop and dig their way through the deep snowdrifts just before they reached the Mississippi River, rain began to fall, and when they came to that great river, the dangerous ice was soft, and was covered with about a foot of water. Their inquiries as to the safety of a crossing brought no encouragement. A sense of the danger gripped the little party. We are told:
"Brother Hart arose in the sleigh and said, 'Is it Iowa, or back to Illinois? We have come to the Red Sea; shall we cross?'" }
"We answered, 'Go forward, trusting in Israel's God.'"
"We ventured upon the ice, praying as we went, and were carried safely across. As we ascended the bank on the Iowa side of the river, we united in praising the Lord."
They were later told by many persons that no amount of money would have tempted them to undertake such a perilous crossing, for several teams had broken through, and the drivers had barely escaped with their lives.
That Friday night the party stayed at a hotel and remained over Sabbath. In the evening the little party sang some Adventist hymns, and as the boarders congregated to listen, Elon Everts hung up the chart and gave a lecture. They were invited to stop on their return and were promised that a meeting house would be provided.
On Sunday the party continued on through bitter cold weather. The men would watch each other's faces to see if they were freezing. Suddenly when the telltale white began to spread, one would cry, "Your nose is freezing! Rub snow on it!" The hardships of the latter part of this journey were portrayed in a letter which Mrs. White wrote to her children from Volney, Iowa, the last day of their journey, the day before Christmas, 1856:
"Here we are fourteen miles this side of Waukon. We are all quite well. Have had rather a tedious time getting thus far. Yesterday for miles there was no track. Our horses had to plow through snow, very deep, but on we came.
"O such fare as we have had on this journey. Last Monday, we could get no decent food, and tasted not a morsel with the exception of a small apple from morn until night. We have most of the time kept very comfortable, but it is the bitterest cold weather we ever experienced.
"We introduce our faith at every hotel we enter, and have some two or three invitations to hold meetings on our return. . . . There seems to be interest awakened at every place we stop. We think we shall have some meetings in this place next first day. . . .
"O how thankful shall I be to see home, sweet home, again, and my dear little boys, Henry, Edson, and Willie. . . . Children, be thankful for your comfortable home. We often suffer with cold, and cannot keep warm sitting before the stove, even. Their houses are so cold and your mother suffers with cold in her head and teeth all the time. . . .
"Last night we slept in an unfinished chamber where there was an opening for the stovepipe, running through the top of the house a large space, big enough for a couple of cats to jump out of."
They finally reached Waukon after many days of hardship which can hardly be imagined in a day of closed cars and automobile heaters. The work was well received by the brethren, and soon the party was on its long journey back to Illinois.
Clarissa Bonfoey, who had made her home with the Whites for eight years, died suddenly in May, 1856. She had been a faithful governess for the White children, caring for them in the absence of the mother on long trips. Now once more when on trips Mrs. White had to leave her boys with persons not so dependable. When she returned from a trip, she found the children had been neglected by the one who had assured her they would have every care. The mother was grieved and sorely tried. In January, 1857, the following item appeared in the Review:
"We would say to those Eastern brethren who have been expecting a visit from us soon, that we can cheerfully leave our children in good hands and go abroad to labor. Is there not some brother and sister, who have no small children, who can come into our family, or settle near, with whom we can leave our children safely?
The provisions for caring for visitors at the general conference of believers in the autumn of 1857 give an insight into the primitive conditions at this period of the advent message. James White, in making the announcement of the conference, said:
"We will feed with hay as many horses as we can put in our barns. We will lodge as many as we can provide beds for, then give up our floors, and barn chambers to those brethren who can best endure such lodgings. Those who can, will do well to bring provisions, buffalo robes, or bedclothes, so that they can lodge in the old meeting house. Come along, brethren and sisters. Bring what you can, and we will do what we can for you."
He also asked them to bring an offering to help pay for the new church at Battle Creek:
"These are hard times, brethren, but come prepared to do something as the Lord hath prospered. We will take gold, silver, good bills, wheat, corn, oats, butter, cheese, deerskins, or good promises of help soon. You who felt badly over our scanty invitation to come to conference last spring on account of the small size of our place of worship, come and meet with us."
In 1857 some of the brethren helped James White financially to build a six-room house of his own some contributing money and many giving their labor. How happy Mrs. White must have been in this first real home of her own-a new house with a garden and flowers. After her husband had left for the office in the morning she loved to spend half an hour in her flower garden. She encouraged her children to work with her. She then spent the remaining hours before noon in writing. In the afternoon her garden, sewing, mending, knitting, darning, and other duties of the house mother engaged her time. This routine was occasionally broken by trips to town or visits to the neighbors.
The parents of both James White and his wife came to live in Battle Creek. They successively occupied a room with the Whites until a cottage near by was secured. This arrangement was a very pleasant one both for the grandchildren, the parents, and the grandparents.
In March, 1858, at Lovetts Grove, Ohio, while Mrs. White was in vision, many scenes in the great controversy between Christ and Satan flashed before her, and she was bidden to write them out. On the way home she and her husband laid plans for writing out the vision and publishing that part concerning the great controversy.
At Jackson, Michigan, while she was conversing, her tongue seemed to get large and numb, and she could not utter a word. A strange sensation struck her heart, passed over her head, and down her right side. This was the third stroke of paralysis which she suffered, and she fully expected to lay down her life at this time. The brethren prayed for her, and a prickling sensation came into her legs until she could use them a little. For some weeks thereafter she could not feel the pressure of the hand or the coldest water poured upon her head.
And yet feeling the call of duty, she gathered paper and pen and began under the greatest difficulties to write The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan. At first she could write but one page a day, and then was compelled to rest three days. Her mind did not seem to be clouded, however, and she continued to write. By the time the two-hundred and nineteen-page book was written, her ailment had entirely left her. This volume was published under the title of Spiritual Gifts, and is now the last portion of Early Writings.
A diary which was kept during 1859 gives an insight into her everyday life. Her visits were many, but she did not make calls simply to visit, but to have spiritual communion with other children of God. She was especially interested in visiting the sick and the poor. Her diary reveals the open heartedness of the White family in connection with a certain poor family. Mrs. White bought a pair of shoes for the mother and helped buy a pair for the little boy. Mr. White gave the family a dollar in cash. Each of the White children gave a dime, and then Mr. White gave a quarter to buy a dish of something extra for the invalid in the family. The family gave some half-worn clothing and the mother put up grape and currant wine for the invalid and also sent some dried apples. Again the little diary tells the secret of a trip to the city to buy a little dress for the child of a poor family.
The Whites were entertained while on their travels and they entertained when travelers and workers came to Battle Creek. One is astounded at the crowds entertained. Mrs. White's diary for April 19, 1859, stated:
"In the evening Brother Hilliard comes with his wife and seven children. We are glad to see them, and we keep them overnight, and-"
Small wonder that the diary broke off suddenly, for no doubt the busy house mother was called to take up an added burden of some kind. On June 6, the diary revealed: "At dinner we had thirty-five."
In the spring as soon as it was warm she and her husband busied themselves planting pie plant, strawberry plants, currant and raspberry bushes. Gardening was part of the training of her children. The entry for April 11 stated:
"Spent the most of the day making a garden for my children. Feel willing to make home as pleasant for them as I can, that home may be the pleasantest place of any to them."
In the autumn of 1860 a fourth son was born. This child died after a few months, which brought sorrow to the parents.
In the same year the question of organization came up. James White wrote suggesting for the organization the name of "Church of God." A council meeting in September decided, however, to call the church "Seventh-day Adventists" and recommended that the churches everywhere choose that name. Although the name was chosen by majority vote, some felt that a mistake had been made. Others felt it was wrong to organize at all, and a division was threatened. At that time a vision was given to Mrs. White approving organization and the name selected. Thus another crisis passed.
Mrs. White received her first vision with regard to health reform in June, 1863. While she was not the first to advocate these health principles, Joseph Bates had adhered to them for twenty years, this was the beginning of their widespread adoption. She published her first writings on this subject in 1864.
In 1863 Mr. and Mrs. White traveled into the New England States in the interest of the message. They took their three boys with them. The boys were left with the Howlands while the parents traveled over New England. While the parents were away, the eldest boy, Henry, caught a cold. A few days after the mother and father returned, he contracted pneumonia. Eight days later he died. Of his death the mother wrote:
"My sweet singer is dead. No more will his voice unite with us around the family altar. No more will music be called forth by his touch. No more will his willing feet and hands do our bidding. But we look forward with joy to the resurrection morning."
In the summer of 1865 James White suffered the first of a series of strokes of paralysis. Mrs. White received assurance that her husband would recover in spite of his discouraging condition. They went to the water-cure institute known as "Our Home on the Hillside" at Dansville, New York. There amid the delightful scenery, with pure air and water, absolute rest, and other natural aids to health, it was thought his recovery would be rapid, but the period of complete rest did not seem to benefit Elder White. He became satisfied with doing nothing, and was reluctant to attempt any work. This became an obstacle to his recovery, and after leaving the institution, Mrs. White endeavored to get him interested in light work. She took him on trips to visit churches and gradually he began to take some interest in doing light labor. In 1867 they moved to a little farm, and she schemed to get her husband to do some farm work. On one occasion when there was hay to be put up, she went to the neighbors and asked them to make excuse that they were so busy they could not help Mr. White with his hay. When Mr. White expressed his disappointment, his wife said, "Let us show the neighbors that we can attend to the work ourselves.
Willie and I will rake the hay (by hand no doubt) and pitch it on the wagon, if you will load it and drive the team." When they reached the stack, Mr. White pitched the hay while Mrs. White stacked. Thus by scheming, Mrs. White got her husband to exercise, and gradually he became stronger. For two long years she battled for her husband's health, and she won.
James White's sickness impressed Mrs. White's mind more deeply with the importance of the health reform message, and the need for its more effective promulgation. For many years Joseph Bates had observed certain reforms, having discarded the use of tobacco and alcohol, tea and coffee, while he was a sea captain. He had also become a vegetarian. By this time there had been a general discarding by most of the Sabbath keeping Adventists of tobacco, and tea and coffee.
After returning with her husband from the hydropathic institution at Dansville, Mrs. White gave special attention to the advocacy of health reform. It was not long after that she wrote:
"I was shown that we should provide a home for the afflicted, and those who wish to learn how to take care of their bodies that they may prevent sickness. We should not remain indifferent, and compel those who are sick and desirous of living out the truth, to go to popular water-cure institutions for the recovery of health, where there is no sympathy for our faith."
This instruction received in vision, Christmas Day, 1865, was given at the General Conference of May, 1866. That same year, land with a residence on it was purchased, and the first Seventh-day Adventist medical institution was opened at Battle Creek. It was known as the Western Health Reform Institute. This later developed into the Battle Creek Sanitarium. The word "sanitarium" was invented by Dr. J. H. Kellogg, and the institution became one of the most famous in America.
The decade of the seventies Mrs. White devoted to traveling with her husband, visiting churches, conferences, and camp meetings. Making the round of the camp meetings became a very tiresome and trying task, and almost wore the couple completely out. Even while on the trips Mrs. White never ceased her writing. One is astonished at her capacity for work even under the most unpropitious circumstances.
Mr. and Mrs. White had fought continually against ill-health and bodily infirmities all their lives, and finally this frail little woman who had so nobly fought the great enemy death away from her husband, was defeated.
Never did a woman meet the loss of her beloved companion with more heroic fortitude. At the close of the funeral sermon preached by Uriah Smith, Mrs. White, who was so feeble from her sickness that she had been carried to the tabernacle for the funeral, arose unexpectedly and addressed the audience for several minutes. Her words spoken under these unusual circumstances were taken by a stenographer. Among other things she said:
"When taken from my sickbed to be with my husband in his dying moments, at first the suddenness of the stroke seemed too heavy to bear, and I cried to God to spare him to me-not to take him away, and leave me to labor alone. Two weeks ago we stood side by side in this desk; but when I shall stand before you again, he will be missing. He will not be present to help me then. . . . And now I take up my lifework alone. I thank my Savior I have two sons whom He has given me to stand by my side. Henceforth the mother must lean upon the children, for the strong, brave, noble hearted husband is at rest. The turmoil with him is over. How long I shall fight the battles of life alone I cannot say. . . .
"And now I appreciate the Christian's hope, and the Christian's heaven, and the Christian's Savior, as I have never appreciated them before. And today I can say, 'There is rest for the weary.' When we were looking, but a short time ago, to Colorado, and to the Atlantic coast, and to the Pacific, for rest, my husband said: 'Let us not be overanxious. We know not what a day may bring forth. God may open up a way before us that now seems indistinct and cloudy. 'But,' said he, 'I shall have rest, I shall have rest. All our ways are hid in Jesus Christ, and He will open up the way before us if we only trust Him, from day to day. Let us now trust in Him.' And there [turning toward the coffin] my husband has found rest; but I have yet to battle. I cannot yet lay off the armor of the Lord. When I fall, let me fall at my post of duty; let me be ready; let me be where I can say as he said, 'All is well. Jesus is precious.'"
Her pledge given in the presence of, the lifeless form of her husband on that day was kept. She took up the work alone where he had left it. She made her home in Healdsburg, California, where she could be near the school which had been started there.
During the years 1885 to 1887 she visited Europe, laboring in England, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, France, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. She made her headquarters at Basel, Switzerland, and made frequent journeys to the various European countries. She went to the Scandinavian countries three times, and in June, 1887, attended the first camp meeting ever held in Europe, at Moss, Norway. She visited Italy three times also.
Back in the United States she traveled and wrote. At the General Conference of 1891 S. N. Haskell made an appeal for Australia and urged that Mrs. White and her son, W. C. White, visit the field and among other interests assist in establishing a Christian school. In response they sailed from San Francisco, November 12, 1891.
The Australasian Bible School was opened in August, 1892. On the occasion of the opening day, Mrs. White was one of the speakers. Here she spoke of a work to develop far beyond their expectation, making the statement, startling indeed at that time:
"The same work must be accomplished in Australia, New Zealand, in Africa, China, and the islands of the sea, as has been accomplished in the home field."
A committee was appointed to search for a suitable location for the kind of school that had been called for in the instruction given regarding Christian education. Among other properties, Cooranbong, in New South Wales, was visited. The committee were hesitant about the value of the land for agricultural purposes, but under the guidance of definite counsel received through Mrs. White, the property was secured, and the school opened. She herself bought a tract of land on the estate, and built a home which she called "Sunny Side." She lived there from 1895 to 1900, and witnessed the clearing of the land, the erection of buildings, and the coming into fruitful bearing of farm and orchard. During this time her molding influence on the school was powerfully felt.
While in Australia, Mrs. White completed the manuscript for the book, The Desire of Ages. Christ's Object Lessons was also brought out, and the proceeds were given for the purpose of lifting the indebtedness from denominational schools. She traveled not only in the mainland of Australia, but also in Tasmania and New Zealand. It was during this time, and in close counsel with Mrs. White, that the first union conference was organized, under the leadership of Elder A. G. Daniells. And it was later through her positive testimony regarding the need for a reorganization of the work of the General Conference, that the plan of union conferences was adopted in 1901.
On her return to the United States she used her influence in strengthening the work among the colored people in the Southern States. During the General Conference of 1901, she also gave counsel that led to the strengthening of the publishing work in Nashville, and the establishing of the Southern Publishing Association.
She urged in 1903 the removal of the headquarters of the denomination from Battle Creek to some point on the Atlantic coast, and by letters to the committee who were seeking a suitable location, she guided in the search, until they were led to Takoma Park, Washington, D.C. She spent the summer of 1904 in that place, and encouraged the leaders and the workmen as the foundations were laid for conference and institutional work.
In Southern California she urged the founding of sanitariums. Through her counsel the Paradise Valley Sanitarium site was purchased at a low price, and on it there has developed an excellent institution. It was directly through her counsel that the Loma Linda Sanitarium was secured, and here also was later developed a first-class medical school for the training of Christian physicians to serve the world field. In 1909 the College of Medical Evangelists was founded, and it has indeed confirmed her forecasts given when their fulfillment seemed humanly impossible.
In 1909, at the age of eighty-one, she made her last extensive speaking tour. She left Elmshaven, her California home, in the spring and journeyed to the quadrennial session of the General Conference which convened in Washington, D.C. On the way to and from the General Conference she traveled more than eight thousand miles during five months' time and spoke to seventy-two audiences. This shows something of the energy and the sheer enthusiasm of this tenacious worker for God.
At this conference she bore a special burden for the work in the cities. She cried out: "Behold our cities. . . . Who is carrying a burden for our cities?" Again and again she called attention to their needs. The beginning of intensive work for the cities dates from this time. The move has proved wise, for not only have thousands of persons been won, but means have flowed in for the work at home and overseas. This proved to be her last General Conference session, although she sent messages to the General Conference of 1913. The last few years of her life were spent in preparing manuscript for the press. She spent her last efforts on completing the Conflict of the Ages series. The last volume, Prophets and Kings, lacked only two chapters of completion in, 1915 when her labors were closed. These chapters were completed from material from her manuscript file.
In the spring of 1914 her son James Edson spent some weeks visiting with her. This was their last visit together. On February 15, 1915, she tripped and fell, breaking her thighbone. Fortunately, she did not suffer much pain, but at her age, recovery would have been miraculous. Gradually she became weaker and weaker. Her last days were spent in bed, sitting in a chair in her writing room, or at times in her wheel chair on her rose covered veranda, which commanded a view of fine orchards and vineyards, of beautiful valleys and hills.
For a few days prior to her death she was unconscious much of the time, and finally she fell asleep quietly and peacefully July 16, 1915, at Elmshaven. Her last words spoken to her son were: "I know in whom I have believed." She was taken to Battle Creek and was buried by the side of her husband, who had preceded her in death a third of a century.
At the time of the General Conference of 1913, just two years before her death, she sent a message to her brethren which might be called her charge to the denominational workers. One paragraph from it is especially gripping:
"I am instructed to say to our ministering brethren, Let the messages that come from your lips be charged with the power of the Spirit of God. If ever there was a time when we needed the special guidance of the Holy Spirit, it is now. We need a thorough consecration. It is fully time that we gave to the world a demonstration of the power of God in our own lives and in our ministry."
The place of Mrs. White in the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is unique. At first she kept in the background, traveling with her husband, offering her testimony against error, and encouraging the scattered believers. Her place was that of one who is the dynamic power behind the leaders. When discouragement seized her husband, time and time again by divine direction she stepped in and kept him at his task. When division threatened the cause of God, she brought the inspired message which was accepted and which wrought peace and harmony. Time and time again she was used as a chosen instrument in the hand of God to direct His people.
She was a loving wife, ever keeping her place, and with fidelity and loyalty helping the man she had promised to cherish and honor. In later years, after the death of her husband, she came more to the foreground in the denominational consciousness. She preached more often, and while she never claimed any position of leadership, her word was universally respected and heeded. Her words of encouragement and optimism sounded time after time in the ears of the defeated leaders, and they turned, rallied the broken ranks, and changed defeat into victory.
Today, two decades after her death, her spirit still lives through the thousands of pages of her writings and through the deathless spirit of divine conquest which she possessed. Truly she, being dead, yet speaks, and her magnificent spirit of leadership goes marching on at the head of the people of God.
1938 END, FOME 200-247