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    01 ANCESTRY, EARLY LIFE, AND CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE, AND EXTENSIVE LABORS

    I WAS born in Palmyra, Somerset county, Maine, August 4, 1821. Bloomfield, Maine, which now forms a part of Skowhegan, was the birthplace of my father, Deacon John White. At the age of twenty-one he commenced life in the new township of Palmyra. At that time there were but twenty acres of trees felled on his land. The old farm is situated on the west side of a body of water which is called, as seen upon the large map of Somerset county, “White’s Pond.” On this farm my father lived and labored fifty-one years. He spent one year and a half in Ohio, and twelve years at Battle Creek, Michigan, where he died July 5, 1871.LIFSK 9.1

    My father descended from one of the Pilgrims who came to America in the ship May Flower, and landed upon Plymouth Rock, December, 1620. On board that ship was the father of Peregrine White, who wore a pair of silver knee-buckles, such as may be seen in the picture of the venerable signers of the Declaration of Independence.LIFSK 9.2

    The knee-buckles worn by this man were afterward given to his son, Peregrine White, who was born on the passage to this country, with the request that they should be handed down in this line of the White family to the eldest son of each successive generation, whose name should be called John. My father had those buckles thirty years. They were as familiar to me in my boyhood days as the buttons upon my coat. He gave them to my brother John, a Methodist minister in Ohio, who has passed them down to his son, Prof. John White of Harvard College. When visiting the Centennial Exhibition I had the pleasure of seeing in the New England Log Cabin what was said to be the veritable cradle in which the infant Peregrine was rocked. Also in the Gallery of Art there was a painting representing the landing of the Pilgrims, and the infant Peregrine is sleeping in his mother’s arms.LIFSK 9.3

    My father possessed from his youth great physical strength, and activity of body and mind. With his own hands he cleared the heavy timber from his land. This revealed stones in the soil, which his own hands removed, and placed into stone fence, to prepare the way for the plow. He toiled on for more than half a century, till the rock-bound soil was literally worn out, and much of the old farm had lost its power to produce crops. At the age of seventy-four he left it and sought rest in the more congenial climate of the West.LIFSK 10.1

    His religious experience, of more than sixty years, was marked with firmness and zeal, and yet with freedom from that bigotry which prevents investigation and advancement, and shuts out love for all who seek to worship God in spirit and in truth.LIFSK 10.2

    At the age of twenty-one he was sprinkled, and joined the Congregational church, but never felt satisfied that in being sprinkled he had received Christian baptism. Several years later, a Baptist minister came into that new part of the State and taught immersion. My father was immersed, and was a Baptist deacon ten years. Still later he embraced the views held by the Christian denomination of New England, which were more liberal and scriptural than those of the Calvinistic Baptists of those days, and communed with that people. The Baptists called a special meeting. The minister and many of the church members were present. The minister invited several to open the meeting with prayer, but each in his turn wished to be excused. He waited. Finally, my father opened the meeting. They then excluded him for communing with the Christians. The minister made an effort to have some one close the meeting. No one moved. My father closed their meeting with prayer, and left them with feelings of love and tenderness. He soon joined the Christian church, and served them as deacon nearly forty years. During this entire period he was present at every conference meeting held by the church, excepting one, which, according to their custom, was held on Saturday afternoon of every fourth week.LIFSK 10.3

    As early as 1842 my father read with deep interest the lectures of William Miller upon the second coming of Christ. He cherished faith in the doctrine of the soon personal appearing of Christ to the time of his decease. He embraced the Sabbath of the Bible in 1860, and observed it while he lived.LIFSK 11.1

    My mother was a granddaughter of Dr. Samuel Shepard, one of the first and most eminent Baptist ministers of New England. She possessed great firmness of constitution, a good mind, and a most amiable disposition. Her entire religious experience, for more than sixty years, was marked with a meek and quiet spirit, devotion to the cause of Christ, and a consistent walk and godly conversation.LIFSK 11.2

    My venerable parents reached the good old age of more than fourscore years, and kept house alone when father was eighty-five years of age and mother was eighty-two. At Oak Hill Cemetery, Battle Creek, Michigan, are two graves at which are erected two marble slabs. On one is chiseled “Dea. John White, was born April 12, 1785, Died July 5, 1871, aged 86 years.” On the other, “Mrs. Dea. John White, was born February 14, 1788, Died January 1, 1871, aged 82 years.” Also that remarkable passage of Paul to his son in the gospel, is divided, the first part is engraved at my venerable father’s head, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” At my beloved mother’s head the concluding portion is given, “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.” 2 Timothy 4:7, 8.LIFSK 11.3

    In my father’s family I stood in the center of nine children, four above me and four below me. But this family chain is now much worn, and nearly half its links are broken. The four above me in years, all live. All below me sleep. Time, toil, and care have made their unmistakable impress on the remaining five.LIFSK 12.1

    My remaining brothers are both ministers, one of the M. E. Church, of Ohio, the other of the regular Baptist, of New Hampshire. Two sisters are living. One brother is supposed to have lost his life by the Indians, in returning from California. Another sleeps beside a sister in Mount Hope Cemetery, Rochester, N.Y., while another brother, who died at the age of three years, rests in the old burying-ground in Palmyra, Maine.LIFSK 12.2

    My parents say I was an extremely feeble child. And, what added greatly to my difficulties, and cut off their hopes of my life, when less than three years old, I had what the doctors call worm fever, resulting in fits, which turned my eyes and nearly destroyed my sight. I am reported to have been extremely cross-eyed - not naturally, but from affection of the nerves - a feeble, nervous, partially-blind boy. These are sufficient reasons why I could not enjoy the common advantages of school. And not until I was sixteen years old, when my health and strength greatly improved, and my eyes became quite natural, could I read a single verse in the Testament without resting my eyes. I felt keenly the fact that I was behind my school-mates in education. And with the poor advantages of those times I could do but little toward making up the almost total loss of ten years. I grew rapidly, and at eighteen was ahead of my years in size and strength. This added to my embarrassment as I entered the Academy at St. Albans, Me., at the age of nineteen. I could not then work a simple problem in single rule of three, and I could not tell a verb from an adverb or an adjective, and was deficient in the other common branches. My friends advised me to turn my attention to farming, and not think of seeking an education. But I could not take their advice.LIFSK 12.3

    At the close of the term of twelve weeks, I received from the preceptor, C. F. Allen, a certificate of my qualifications to teach the common branches, and the winter following I taught school. This required close study eighteen hours of each twenty-four. A victory was gained. Much of my time previous to this I had viewed myself as nearly worthless in the world, and regretted my existence. But now I was beginning to hope that I had powers to become a man. No privation nor hardship formed an obstacle in my way. My father gave me my time at nineteen, and a suit of clothes. All I asked of my parents in addition to this was three dollars to pay my tuition, and six days’ rations of bread to take with me each Monday morning for three months as I should walk five miles to the school.LIFSK 13.1

    At the close of my first term of school-teaching I again attended school at St. Albans five weeks, then shouldered my pack and walked to the Penobscot river, forty miles, to offer myself as a raw hand in a saw-mill. In the mill I cut my ankle, which resulted in permanent weakness and occasional painful lameness in my left foot. For twenty-six years I was unable to bear my weight upon my left heel.LIFSK 13.2

    At the end of four months I returned home. I had lost much time in consequence of the severe wound in my ankle joint, and after paying my board during the time lost, I had but thirty dollars and a scanty amount of worn clothing. In order to be qualified to teach a school where I could obtain first-class wages it was necessary for me to attend school. I therefore immediately packed up my books and humble apparel for the school at Reedfield, Me., then favorably known as being under the control and support of the Episcopal Methodists. During that term my object was to thoroughly qualify myself to teach the common branches. Besides these, I took up Natural Philosophy, Algebra, and Latin. At the close of that term I had conquered all the Arithmetics within my reach, was regarded as a good grammarian, was prepared to teach penmanship, and was told by my preceptor that I could fit for college in one year.LIFSK 13.3

    My thirst for education increased, and my plans were laid to take a college course and pay my way, if labor, economy, and study would accomplish it. I had but little else to thank but God and my own energies for what advancement I had made. At Reedfield I wore old clothes, while my class-mates wore new, and lived three months on corn-meal pudding prepared by myself, and a few raw apples, while they enjoyed the conveniences and luxuries of the boarding-house.LIFSK 14.1

    With the close of this term, also closed my school studies. I had attended high school, in all, twenty-nine weeks, and the entire cost of tuition, books, and board, did not exceed fifty dollars. My apology for being so definite in this part of my narrative, is a desire to help those young men who wish to obtain an education while suffering under the unfriendly influences of poverty and pride. A poor boy may obtain an education by calling to his aid industry, economy, and application to his books. Such an one will prize his education, and be likely to make a good use of it; while the young man who looks to his father’s purse, puts on fine clothes, spends much of his time in fashionable calls, and acts the part of the spendthrift, will not get a thorough education, and will probably make a poor use of what he does obtain.LIFSK 14.2

    The following winter, covering a part of 1840 and 1841, I taught a large school, and also gave lessons in penmanship in two districts. And with my winter’s earnings in my pocket, I returned home with a firm purpose to pursue my studies.LIFSK 15.1

    At the age of fifteen I was baptized, and united with the Christian church. But at the age of twenty I had buried myself in the spirit of study and school-teaching, and had lain down the cross. I had never descended to the common sin of profanity, and had not used tobacco, tea and coffee, nor had I ever raised a glass of spirituous liquor to my lips. Yet I loved this world more than I loved Christ and the next, and was worshiping education instead of the God of Heaven. In this state of mind I returned home from my second and last school, when my mother said to me, “James, Brother Oakes of Boston has been lecturing at our meeting-house on the second coming of Christ about the year 1843, and many believe the doctrine, and there has followed these lectures a good reformation in which most of your mates have experienced religion.”LIFSK 15.2

    I had regarded what was commonly called Millerism as wild fanaticism, and this impression was confirmed by hearing one James Hall of Maine speak upon the subject at the house of worship at Palmyra. But now that my mother, in whose judgment and piety I had reason to confide, spoke to me upon the subject in words of earnestness, candor, and solemnity, I was shocked and distressed. In spite of me, conviction would fasten upon my mind that these things might be so. But, then, how could I have it so? I was unprepared, and my plans for this life were made. The conversation continued:-LIFSK 15.3

    “But, mother, this preacher Oakes, of whom you speak, professes to know more than the Lord and his angels, in teaching the time of the second advent. Christ himself has said, ‘But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in Heaven; neither the Son, but the Father.’ He is certainly wise above that which is written.”LIFSK 16.1

    My good mother replied, “‘As the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.’ God gave the time to Noah. The Bible says, ‘My Spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh; yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.’ Genesis 6:3. Noah had this time given him in which to build the ark and warn the world. And his message, based upon the word of the Lord that a flood of water would destroy man and beast from off the face of the earth at the close of the one hundred and twenty years, condemned the world. Jesus also says in this connection, that there shall be signs in the sun, moon, and stars, and adds, ‘When ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.’”LIFSK 16.2

    I then appealed to Paul. “The apostle has said, ‘For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.’ 1 Thessalonians 5:2. This language is very plain, and shows that as a thief in the stillness of the night quietly seeks his plunder, without giving notice, so Christ will come when least expected, hence this idea of warning the world of his soon coming is a mistake.”LIFSK 16.3

    “But, James, of whom is the apostle in this verse speaking? Not of Christians, but of the ungodly. They will not receive the warning. They will not be looking for Christ. They will be buried up in the spirit of this world. They will be saying, Peace and safety, and they will be suddenly and unexpectedly destroyed. Not so with those who love Jesus and his appearing. They will receive the warning. They will be looking for, waiting for, and loving the appearance of the dear Saviour, and that day will not come upon them as a thief. Notice with care the two classes mentioned. One is the ungodly. The other is the brethren. The day of the Lord will come on one class as a thief; but not so with the other. ‘For when they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.’”LIFSK 16.4

    My good mother was ready to calmly and pleasantly meet all my objections, and I was now disposed to view the subject as worthy of my attention. And when in the house of God I heard my school-mates speak of the love of Christ, and the glory of his appearing, I was deeply impressed that the hand of God was in the Advent doctrine.LIFSK 17.1

    As I returned to the Lord, it was with strong convictions that I should renounce my worldly plans and give myself to the work of warning the people to prepare for the day of God. I had loved books generally; but in my backslidden state had neither time nor taste for the study of the sacred Scriptures, hence was ignorant of the prophecies. I had, however, some knowledge of the Bible history of man, and had the idea that the race in six thousand years had depreciated physically, and, consequently, mentally. The subject came before my mind in this form: Man once lived nearly one thousand years. In length of days he has dwindled to seventy. In a few centuries, should time continue, with the same results upon the lifetime of man, the race would cease to exist. I had renounced the doctrine of the conversion of the world, and the temporal millennium, in which the soil and man were to be gradually restored to their Eden state, as taught me by my father. I therefore saw the necessity, in the very nature of things, for some great change, and the second coming of Christ seemed to be the event which would most probably bring about the change in man, and in the earth, to remove the curse and its results, and restore all to its Eden perfection and glory.LIFSK 17.2

    My mind turned to the young people of the school I had just left. In that school of fifty scholars, twenty were near my own age, several were older. My school was a happy one. I loved my scholars, and this love was mutual. As we parted, at the close of the last day of school, I said to them, “I am engaged to teach this school next winter, and should I fulfill this engagement, I will not ask one of you to obey my orders better than you have this term.” As I found comfort in prayer, I began to pray for my scholars, and would sometimes wake myself in the night praying vocally for them. A strong impression came upon me, as if a voice said, Visit your scholars from house to house and pray with them. I could not conceive of a heavier cross than this. I prayed to be excused, that I might pursue my studies; but no relief came. I prayed for clearer evidence, and the same impression seemed to say, Visit your scholars.LIFSK 18.1

    In this state of mind I went into my father’s field, hoping that I could work off the feelings under which I suffered. But they followed me, and increased. I went to the grove to pray for relief. None came. But the impression, Visit your scholars, was still more distinct. My spirit rose in rebellion against God, and I recklessly said, I will not go. These words were accompanied with a firm stamp of the foot upon the ground, and in five minutes I was at the house, packing my books and clothes for Newport Academy. That afternoon I rode to the place with Elder Bridges, who talked to me all the way upon the subject of preaching, greatly to my discomfort.LIFSK 18.2

    The next morning I secured a boarding place, and took my position in several classes in the school, and commenced study with a will to drive off my convictions. But in this I did not succeed. I became distressed and agitated. After spending several hours over my books, I tried to call to mind what I had been studying. This I could not do. My mental confusion was complete. The Spirit of God had followed me into the school-room in mercy, notwithstanding my rebellion, and I could find no rest there. Finally I resolved that I would do my duty, and immediately went directly from the door of that school-room, on foot, to the town of Troy, the place of my last school. I had gone but a few rods on my way, when sweet peace from God flowed into my mind, and Heaven seemed to shine around me. I raised my hands and praised God with the voice of triumph.LIFSK 19.1

    With a light heart and cheerful step I walked on till sundown, when I came to a humble cottage which attracted my especial attention. I was strongly impressed to call, but had no reason for so doing, as it was but a few miles to the school district where I should find a hearty welcome. I decided to go past this house, as I did not wish to find myself in the awkward position of calling upon strangers without some good reason. But the impression to call increased, and the excuse to ask for a drink of water occurred to me, and I stepped to the door and called for water. A man in the noon of life waited upon me, then kindly said, “Walk in.” I saw that he had been weeping. In one hand he held the Bible. When I had taken the chair he offered me, this sad stranger addressed me in a most mournful manner, as follows: “I am in trouble. I am in deep affliction. To-day I have buried my dear son, and I have not the grace of God to sustain me. I am not a Christian, and my burden seems greater than I can bear. Will you please stop all night with me?”LIFSK 19.2

    He wept bitterly. Why he should so directly open his afflicted mind to a young stranger, has ever been to me a mystery. I could not refuse his invitation, and concluded to stop for the night. I told him my brief experience, and pointed him to Christ, who says, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” We bowed in prayer, and my new friend seemed relieved. Then we sought rest in sleep. In the morning I assisted him in erecting the family altar, and went on my way. I have neither seen nor heard from him since.LIFSK 20.1

    But I had walked only two miles on that delightful spring morning, when all nature, animate and inanimate, seemed to join my glad heart in the praise of God, before the same impression came upon me, as I was passing a neat log cottage. Something said to me, Go into the house. I stepped to the door, and called for a drink of water. And who should bring it to me but a young lady who had attended my school the past winter. As she recognized me, she exclaimed, “Why, school-master, walk in.” This family had just moved from the district, three miles, to a new settlement surrounded by forests. The father was absent. The mother and children greeted me with more than usual cordiality, each calling me Master. There was the place for my work to commence. I told my errand, and asked the privilege to pray.LIFSK 20.2

    “Oh, yes!” said the already weeping woman. “But let me send out the children and call in my neighbors.” Some half-dozen little boys and girls received dispatches from their mother, and cheerfully ran to as many log cottages with the word, “Our school-master is at our house, and wishes to pray, and mother wants you to come as soon as you can.” In less than half an hour I had before me a congregation of about twenty-five. In conversing with them, I learned that not one of that company professed Christianity. Lectures on the Second Advent had been given near them, and a general conviction that the doctrine might be true rested upon the people. And as I related my experience of the few weeks in the past, stating my convictions relative to the soon coming of Christ, all were interested. I then bowed to pray, and was astonished to find that these twenty-five sinners all bowed with me. I could but weep. They all wept with me. And after pointing them to Christ, as best I could with my limited experience and knowledge of the Scriptures, I shook their hands, said farewell, and joyfully pursued my journey.LIFSK 20.3

    As I entered the district I had so recently left, all seemed changed, yet no changes worthy of note had taken place but in me. The school-house where I had spent happy hours in teaching willing minds, was closed, and my scholars were pursuing their daily tasks in the field and kitchen. I had left them, a proud, prayerless backslider, but now had come to pray with them. It seemed to me that the Lord could not have selected a duty more humbling to my pride. The district was made up of Universalists, formal professors, respectable sinners, and infidels. My employer, who had also engaged me to teach their school the next winter, was an infidel. I lost no time in making known the object of my visit, and in visiting and praying from house to house. No one opposed me. Some were deeply affected and bowed with me. My infidel friend said to me as I asked permission to pray in his house:-LIFSK 21.1

    “I am very sorry, Mr. White, to find you in this state of mind. You are a good teacher, and a gentleman. I shall not forbid you.”LIFSK 22.1

    This reception was decidedly cold when compared with what I had met from others. This infidel was evidently much disgusted and disappointed, but tried to conceal his feelings out of respect to mine. I tried to pray, and passed to the next house. In a few days my work in this direction was finished for that time, and I returned home with the sweet assurance that I had done my duty. A few weeks afterward, however, I visited the place again. A general reformation was in progress, under the labors of a Christian minister. On Sunday, the meeting was held in a barn. The interest was general, and the congregation large. After the minister closed his remarks, I improved a few moments. I felt deeply, and my testimony reached the people, especially my scholars and their parents.LIFSK 22.2

    The following summer, lectures were given in the town-house at Troy, and the next winter most of the people of that town embraced religion.LIFSK 22.3

    Much of the summer I was unsettled as to duty. I had visited my scholars, and sometimes hoped to be excused from anything further of the kind, and feel free to pursue my studies. But the definite idea of proclaiming the soon coming of Christ, and warning the people to prepare for the day of the Lord, was impressed upon my mind. I did not dare attend school. The Spirit of the Lord had driven me from the school-room once, and in following a sense of duty I had been greatly blessed. How could I resist present convictions, and again try to shut myself away from the Lord, over my books? But how could I renounce all my fondly-cherished hopes of the future? My brother in Ohio said to me by letter: “Come out into the sunny West, James, and I will help you.” “Well,” said I, “when I become a scholar.” How could I give up my school books, and with my small stock of education think of becoming a preacher?LIFSK 22.4

    A school-mate, Eldridge Smith, who had also been a room-mate at St. Albans and at Reedfield, was a special friend of mine. He was a fine young man, of good habits, yet not a Christian. I loved him for what he was, and we mutually in confidence freely stated to each other all our plans, hopes and difficulties. To this young man I first opened my mind freely upon the subject of the Second Advent, and my convictions of duty to preach the doctrine. He treated the matter with candor, and seemed troubled as he learned from my own lips that I was inclined to believe that Christ would come about the year 1843. He had given the subject no study, but evidently feared it might be so. He replied as follows:LIFSK 23.1

    “You know I am not a Christian, and therefore am poorly prepared to give you advice in relation to religious duty. I think of these things more than many suppose, though I publicly take no personal interest in them. I, however, think it well for me, and safe for you, to say at this time, Follow the convictions of your own mind.”LIFSK 23.2

    I highly esteem this friend of my youth for his candor and good counsel. Who could have done better? We have met but a few times since, as I soon left that part of the State to proclaim the coming of the Lord, and he for Bowdoin College. He graduated in two years from that time, studied law, and now Elbridge Smith is a judge somewhere in the West.LIFSK 23.3

    The struggle with duty was a severe one. But I finally gave out an appointment, and had some freedom. I soon sent an appointment to speak at the Troy town-house. The congregation was large. Had rather a lean time, and felt embarrassed. And what seemed to well-nigh finish me, a good, honest, simple-hearted woman came up to me at the close of the meeting and said: “Elder White, please come to our house and take dinner.” The word Elder cut me to the heart. I was confused and almost paralyzed. I will not attempt to narrate anything further that occurred on that day. The remaining portion of the day has ever seemed like a blank. I can only remember my confusion and anguish of spirit as I heard the unexpected word, Elder. I was unreconciled at the prospect before me, yet dared not refuse what seemed to be duty, and turn to my books. I was urged to speak in the presence of two young preachers, and attempted to preach. In twenty minutes became confused and embarrassed, and sat down. I lacked resignation and humility, therefore was not sustained. I finally gave up all for Christ and his gospel, and found peace and freedom.LIFSK 23.4

    Soon my mind was especially called to the second advent by hearing Elders J. V. Himes and A. Hale speak several times upon the subject, in the city of Bangor, Me. I then saw that it was a subject that required study, and felt the importance of commencing in earnest to prepare myself to teach others. I purchased Advent publications, read them closely, studied my Bible, and spoke a few times during the summer on the second coming of Christ with freedom, and felt encouraged.LIFSK 24.1

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