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    Chapter 3—Plague, Pestilence, and the Pioneers

    People during the nineteenth century had little knowledge about health and medicine. Cities and towns had poor sanitation facilities, food could not be preserved well, fresh fruits and vegetables became scarce during certain seasons, and disease ran rampant. Many people died from things a pill or simple injection would cure today. Epidemics sometimes killed large portions of the population of some towns. During their travels the Whites often came to sections of New England and New York where sickness had stricken people. Occasionally God would intervene in cases of extreme illness and heal the suffering person after the primitive medical aid had failed.AOT 25.1

    One such example occurred in the spring of 1845, before Ellen’s marriage to James White. She visited the home of Stockbridge Howland in Topsham, Maine, a hilly little town of sturdy old houses and lofty elm trees near Brunswick, Maine. A group of Adventists had planned a meeting in the Howland home. Ellen did not know then that she and her future husband, James White, would live in some of the upstairs rooms of the large old house in less than two years. James also attended the meeting.AOT 25.2

    Ellen was a close friend of Frances Howland, Stockbridge’s oldest daughter. The Howland girl suffered from rheumatic fever. Her hands had swollen so badly that the joints of the fingers could not be seen. Ellen worried about her friend, fearing that she might die. The little group of Adventists met for worship and to discuss the girl’s case.AOT 26.1

    When someone asked Stockbridge if he had faith enough to believe that his daughter could be healed in answer to prayer, he replied that he did have. Several proposed that the group kneel in prayer and ask God to heal Frances should it be His will. Afterward one of the men asked, “Is there a woman here who has the faith to go and take Frances by the hand and bid her to rise from her bed in the name of the Lord?”AOT 26.2

    Stockbridge Howland’s daughter lay in one of the upstairs bedrooms, helpless and feverish, her body racked with pain.AOT 26.3

    The man did not have to ask for a volunteer a second time. Instantly a woman named Curtis rose to her feet and climbed the steep stairs to Frances’ bedroom. Entering it, she took the girl’s hand and said, “In the name of the Lord, arise and be whole.”AOT 26.4

    Obeying the woman’s command, Frances pushed herself up from her bed, slipped her feet to the floor, and walked across the room. New and sudden strength and relief from pain flooded through her, and she began to praise God for the miracle He had performed for her.AOT 26.5

    Quickly dressing, she came down to the room where the group of praying men and women had assembled. A smile of gladness and gratitude burst across her face and seemed to be reflected in the faces of her friends and relatives.AOT 27.1

    The next morning James White, Ellen Harmon, Frances Howland, and the others had breakfast together. For worship James selected the fifth chapter of the Book of James and read it with deep emotion. The physician who had cared for Frances appeared in the hall for his morning check of Frances’ condition. With the door to the kitchen closed, he did not see everybody gathered about the table. James, engrossed in his reading, apparently did not hear the doctor go up the stairs to Frances’ room. Not finding her in bed, the physician hurried back downstairs and burst into the kitchen, an expression of alarm on his face. When he saw his patient sitting at the breakfast table, he was amazed.AOT 27.2

    “What is she doing out of bed?” he demanded.AOT 27.3

    “The Lord has healed her,” her father answered.AOT 27.4

    James White returned to his interrupted reading. “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him.” James 5:14.AOT 27.5

    The doctor listened, his expression a mixture of wonder and disbelief. Knowing she no longer needed him, he turned and quietly left the house.AOT 27.6

    Later in the day Frances rode three miles, much of it through rain and mist. The ride did not appear to damage her health. Instead, she seemed to improve even more. Within a few days she requested baptism. The cold water and weather, like the ride through the rain, did not affect her. Rheumatic fever never bothered her again.AOT 27.7

    At the same time that Frances Howland suffered from a weakened heart, William H. Hyde fought off an attack of dysentery. Internal bleeding started, and his symptoms worsened alarmingly until his doctor considered the case almost hopeless. Ellen Harmon and several others visited Hyde and found him suffering from more than physical sickness. He had become involved with a group of religious fanatics. The fanatics’ beliefs had created a bad name for the Adventists and helped destroy Hyde’s belief in God. With the man’s faith damaged, Ellen knew that it would be difficult to pray for God’s healing for him. She knew that they had to take him away from the influence of his dangerous friends. But Hyde did not have enough physical strength to travel. And the religious fanatics daily came to visit and to fill him with their wrong doctrine.AOT 28.1

    Ellen and several others, gathering at his bedside, prayed that he would at least have strength enough to go somewhere else, out of reach of the fanatics’ influence. His health temporarily improved until he managed to ride to the home of an Adventist named Patten. But after he arrived at Patten’s house, his dysentery worsened, and his friends feared he would soon die.AOT 28.2

    The fanatics, learning where he had gone, followed him to the Patten farm. Again their teachings began to weaken his faith. Finally his friends had to bar them from his bedroom, permitting only people with strong religious faith to enter it. They realized that Hyde had some things he needed to remove from his life. His relationship with Christ was not good; he had drifted away from God. Ellen and the others pointed out the mistakes he had made and told him where he should change. Thinking over what he had done before his sickness, William Hyde realized that he had done many wrong things. Accepting the reproofs given him, he prayed for forgiveness. His complete repentance amazed his friends and encouraged them in their own religious beliefs.AOT 28.3

    As He had done for Frances Howland, God gave William Hyde new physical strength. Immediately he dressed and walked out of the bedroom, thanking God as he went. Going into the kitchen, he saw on the table a hearty dinner such as farmers, needing and using lots of energy, would eat. “If I were well,” he said, “I would eat this food. Since I believe God has healed me, I shall carry out my faith.” Sitting down at the dinner table with his friends, he ate a large dinner. Even though he had had a bad case of dysentery only a few minutes before, the meal did not harm him. He completely and permanently recovered from his bout with the disease.AOT 29.1

    Disease often stalked the early leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It threatened to slow the spread of the Adventist message. The members needed to know how to improve and protect their health. In a vision on June 6, 1863, at the Otsego, Michigan, home of Aaron Hilliard, God began to outline to Mrs. White principles that would improve the well-being of Adventists. From several visions came writings that resulted in such books as Medical Ministry, The Ministry of Healing, Counsels on Health, and Counsels on Diet and Foods.AOT 29.2

    The visions on health, however, did not come until nearly twenty years after the Sabbathkeeping Adventists first began to organize little churches. Until then people had to struggle along with their limited and crude medical knowledge. In His mercy, God often miraculously healed many Adventists. Mrs. White saw such healing in her own life.AOT 30.1

    One day in 1849, when James White prepared to travel to New Hampshire and Maine, Mrs. White suddenly became worried. She was afraid that her husband would contract cholera, a dangerous disease then killing many in New England. With her own health poor, she leaned heavily upon him during times of difficulty. She would not know what to do if the one she loved died.AOT 30.2

    One night Mrs. White dreamed that she and James went walking in the countryside. As they journeyed along together, she noticed that his eyes looked bloodshot, his face had reddened, and his lips had lost their color. People around them died from the dread cholera. Turning to him, she said, “James, I think that you would make a perfect cholera victim.”AOT 30.3

    He did not seem too concerned about the danger. “Let’s just walk along a little further, and I will show you a sure remedy for cholera,” he replied. They approached a small bridge crossing a stream. Suddenly James White darted for the stream and plunged in. Feet kicking briefly in the air, he dived for the bottom. Mrs. White felt fear well up inside her, and she wanted to scream. A few seconds later he bobbed to the surface with a splash, holding a glass of water. Rays of light shattered and exploded in the liquid. “This water cures all manner of disease,” he said, drinking it. Again he swam down into the deep water, returning with another glass of the strange fluid.AOT 30.4

    When James drank the second glass without offering her any, Mrs. White became sad. She could not understand his unusual selfishness. Sensing her thoughts, he explained, “There is a secret spring at the bottom of this river which cures all kinds of diseases. Anyone wanting to obtain water from it must plunge down to it by himself. No one can get it for someone else.”AOT 31.1

    She saw that all signs of the cholera had vanished from his face. His health and strength had returned.AOT 31.2

    When Mrs. White awoke from her dream, she understood its meaning. Her fears had vanished like James’s cholera, and she had a new appreciation of Jesus—who had called Himself the Water of life—and of His care for her husband. She knew that God would not let Satan use disease—then so common—to stop the growth of the tiny Adventist Church. A sense of trust replaced her worries.AOT 31.3

    Besides illustrating God’s protection of His believers, Ellen White’s dream also had a prophetic sense. James White did come down with cholera the next year. At the time they lived in Centerport, New York, at the home of William Harris, from which the Whites published a short-lived religious magazine called the Advent Review. William Harris had gone to work several miles away when the cholera attack came. The only ones present with Mrs. White were Mrs. Harris, Sarah—Ellen’s sister—and Clarissa Bonfoey, a woman who lived with the Whites and helped take care of their child Edson when they traveled.AOT 31.4

    The attack was severe. James had cramps every few minutes, and the pain became almost unbearable. As the disease progressed, his arms and legs began to grow cold. In an attempt to restore circulation, Mrs. White rubbed them until she was completely exhausted. His condition continued to worsen, and she knew that he would soon die. Never had she felt so helpless. Desperately she repeated to herself over and over God’s promises to heal the sick. In a weak, barely audible voice, James White asked the four women to pray for him. Physically and emotionally exhausted, Mrs. White dropped to her knees with the other women. Each word of their prayers came from agony. Strongly feeling her unworthiness before God, Ellen laid her hand on her husband’s head and asked God to reveal His power to heal.AOT 32.1

    Immediately James White’s pain eased. The skin of his face regained its natural color, and a peaceful smile softened his gaunt features. Never, the women thought, had they witnessed a more remarkable answer to prayer. Again God had protected the leaders of His church from disease and death.AOT 32.2

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