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    Chapter 6—A Storm at Sea

    Once a steamer on which James and Ellen were traveling ran into a storm. The boat rolled from side to side, and waves dashed through the windows. Suddenly a large chandelier crashed to the floor. Dishes on the breakfast table clattered in every direction. A woman fell out of her berth, landing amid bundles and boxes which were sliding about on the cabin floor.SMG 46.1

    “Mrs. White, aren’t you terrified?” another woman asked. “Do you realize that we may never reach land?”SMG 46.2

    “I have nothing to fear,” Mrs. White answered calmly. “I have made Christ my refuge, and if my work is done, I might as well lie in the bottom of the ocean as in any other place. But if my work is not done, all the waters of the ocean cannot drown me. My trust is in God, that He will bring us to land if it is for His glory.”SMG 46.3

    Some of the women were confessing their sins and crying to God for mercy. Others called on the virgin Mary to save them. One cried out in fear, “O God, if You will save us from death, I will serve You forever!”SMG 46.4

    A few hours later the steamer landed safely. As the passengers stepped off, Mrs. White heard a woman exclaim mockingly, “Glory to God! I’m glad to step on land again!” She turned to see who was speaking and discovered it was the same woman who had promised to serve the Lord forever if He would only save her life that day.SMG 46.5

    Looking earnestly into the woman’s face, Mrs. White said, “Go back a few hours and remember your vows.” The woman turned from her with a sneer.SMG 47.1

    On another steamer trip Mrs. White was telling some young women about the terrible storm she and her husband had been through. “Christians should always be ready to close their probation either at death or at the coming of Jesus,” she told them.SMG 47.2

    “That’s just the way the Millerites talk,” one of the young women said. “They are the most deceived people on earth. On the day they expected Christ to come, companies in different places put on ascension robes, went into graveyards and up on the tops of houses and high hills, and there they prayed and sang until the time passed by.”SMG 47.3

    “Did you ever see any of these persons dressed in ascension robes?” Mrs. White asked.SMG 47.4

    “No, I didn’t see them myself, but a friend who saw them told me. And the fact is so well known everywhere that I believe it just the same as if I had seen it myself.”SMG 47.5

    “Oh, yes!” another of the group said. “The Millerites all around the town where I lived put on ascension robes.”SMG 47.6

    “And did you see them with their robes on?” Mrs. White asked.SMG 47.7

    “No, I didn’t see them; they were not in my neighborhood. But the report was all around that they made white linen ascension robes and wore them. Everybody believed it.”SMG 47.8

    Then the first woman, seeing the doubtful look on Mrs. White’s face, said positively, “I know it was so. I’m just as sure of it as if I had seen it myself.”SMG 47.9

    “Well, I should think that if putting on ascension robes was that common, you can surely give me the names of some of the people who did it,” Mrs. White said.SMG 47.10

    “Certainly,” came the confident answer. “There were the Harmon sisters in Portland. Friends told me that they saw the girls going out to the graveyard with their robes on. Since the time has passed, both of these girls have become infidels.”SMG 48.1

    A member of the group who had been listening quietly could not keep from laughing. “Perhaps you don’t know you are talking to one of the Harmon sisters,” she said. “The woman sitting beside you was Ellen Harmon. She and I were schoolmates. I have known the Harmon sisters nearly all their lives, and I know the report that they made ascension robes and wore them is a lie. I’m not a Millerite, but I’m sure nothing of the kind ever took place.”SMG 48.2

    An embarrassed silence followed. “Probably all the stories about ascension robes are as untrue as this one,” Mrs. White said. “The robe we must have on when Jesus comes is the robe of a pure, sinless character.”SMG 48.3

    In their travels the Whites often bought tickets that entitled them to passage on the lower decks only. This manner of traveling was not comfortable, but it was less expensive. Weary with traveling and preaching, they would lie down at night on the hard decks or on boxes of freight or sacks of grain, with their carpetbags for pillows and their coats for covering. On cold winter nights they would sometimes have to get up and pace the deck to keep warm. In summer the suffocating heat and tobacco smoke sent them to the edges of the boat for the cooling breeze.SMG 48.4

    Many times I have wished I could ask my grandfather, “Why did you take my frail little grandmother back and forth on those rough coastal voyages, and on those tedious canal trips on little packet boats, when it would have been much easier to go by train?”SMG 48.5

    One day while scanning some old letters written by James White, I found the answer to my question:SMG 49.1

    “We usually go from Boston to Portland in the steamboat. Fare is only one dollar. To go directly through on the train, the fare would be three dollars.”SMG 49.2

    “Just like them,” I thought, as I read this gentle hint in a letter to a brother who was coming to one of the conferences. Those pioneers would suffer any kind of hardship in order to save a few precious dollars with which to travel a little farther and find a few more families needing the blessed hope of the returning Saviour.SMG 49.3

    Amusing things happened on some of these trips. Once James and Ellen White and Captain Bates were on their way through New York State to attend a Bible conference. They started in a small boat, but after a while they saw a larger boat approaching. Because they needed to transfer to this boat, they signaled it to stop. But it kept steadily on its way. As it drew alongside their boat, James took Ellen’s hand, and they both jumped for it, landing safely on board.SMG 49.4

    “Here, take your pay!” shouted Bates to the captain, holding out a dollar bill. He too leaped for the larger canalboat. But by this time it was nearly out of reach. His foot struck the edge, and down into the water he went. Grasping his pocketbook in one hand and the dollar bill in the other, he started swimming after the canalboat. His hat fell off, and in trying to save it, he lost the dollar, but still he held fast to his pocketbook. At last the big boat stopped, and Bates was pulled aboard, muddy water dripping from his clothes and oozing out of his shoes.SMG 49.5

    At the next landing they left the boat and went to the home of an Adventist family named Harris to give Elder Bates a chance to dry out. There they found Mrs. Harris in bed with a severe headache, an affliction which had troubled her for years. She asked them to pray for her, and they did. They also told her that using snuff caused her trouble.SMG 49.6

    “I’m so glad you told me,” she said. “I’ll never use it again. I’m glad for the accident that brought you here.” They were all glad, even Capta in Bates. That was the end of the severe headaches.SMG 50.1

    As they boarded the next canalboat, James White said, “We can’t make our Sabbath appointment; but I know of an Adventist family nearby. Let’s stay over the Sabbath with them.”SMG 50.2

    Late Friday afternoon they arrived at the house. A little boy ran to the field to call his father, who gave them a hearty welcome when he learned they were Sabbathkeepers. They spent a delightful Sabbath studying the Bible together. Falling into the canal had brought good to two families.SMG 50.3

    This was not the only time when a seeming disaster resulted in bringing these earnest workers in contact with people whom they might never have found otherwise. James and Ellen White had many such experiences. Years later while traveling in Michigan by carriage with other workers, they lost their way. The driver, though well acquainted with the route, became confused and left the traveled road. It was Friday, and the distance to Vergennes, where they intended to hold Sabbath meetings, was only fifteen miles; yet that day they traveled forty miles before reaching their destination. For hours they drove through dense woods, following faint wheel tracks which were often blocked by logs and fallen trees. All the while they kept looking for a house where they might get directions. It was hot. They had no food, and no water could be found. Passing some grazing cows, the thirsty travelers tried to get close enough to obtain a little milk. But the cows would not let strangers approach. Twice Mrs. White fainted, and her husband prayed for her.SMG 50.4

    Finally they came in sight of a log cabin in a little clearing, where they were kindly received and given refreshments. While they lingered to rest and eat and to learn their way, they chatted with the family. Before leaving, Ellen gave them a copy of her little book Experience and Views.SMG 51.1

    For years they wondered why they should have been left to such weary wanderings, especially on a Friday, before their important Sabbath appointments. Twenty-two years later at a Michigan camp meeting they found out.SMG 51.2

    At the close of one service a woman came to the front and grasped Mrs. White’s hand eagerly. “Do you remember getting lost many years ago and stopping at a log house in the woods?” she asked. “We gave you refreshments, and you talked to us about Jesus and the beauties of heaven. Your words were spoken with such fervor that I was charmed and have never forgotten them.SMG 51.3

    “You left with us a little book. We lent that book to neighbors, as families settled around us, and it was read until there is little left of it. Since that time the Lord has sent ministers to preach to us; and now there is quite a company observing the Sabbath who date their first experience from the influence of that little book.”SMG 51.4

    It was easy then to understand how God’s Providence had led them, even on that wearisome day.SMG 51.5

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