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Ellen G. White: The Progressive Years: 1862-1876 (vol. 2)

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    Chapter 12—(1867) Liberated at Last—The Sweet and the Bitter

    Although there were setbacks in James White's health during the year 1866, there was a gradual improvement. In later years Ellen White occasionally looked back and recounted some of the steps in his recovery, but she did not pinpoint dates or places. As already noted, in the spring she determined to test the benefits of travel, journeying as her husband's strength would bear (2Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, 354). It seems likely that what she related to a group of medical workers in 1902 was in connection with one of these short trips:2BIO 157.1

    I always took my husband with me when I went out driving. And I took him with me when I went to preach at any place. I had a regular circuit of meetings. I could not persuade him to go into the desk while I preached. Finally, after many, many months, I said to him, “Now, my husband, you are going into the desk today.” He did not want to go, but I would not yield. I took him up into the desk with me. That day he spoke to the people. Although the meetinghouse was filled with unbelievers, for half an hour I could not refrain from weeping. My heart was overflowing with joy and gratitude. I knew that the victory had been gained.—Manuscript 50, 1902 (see also Selected Messages 2:307, 308).2BIO 157.2

    But as the winter of 1866-1867 approached, James stayed at home more. Ellen wrote:2BIO 157.3

    Having become fully satisfied that my husband would not recover from his protracted sickness while remaining inactive, and that the time had fully come for me to go forth and bear my testimony to the people, I decided ...to venture a tour in northern Michigan, with my husband in his extremely feeble condition, in the severest cold of winter.—Testimonies for the Church, 1:570.2BIO 157.4

    She added,2BIO 158.1

    It required no small degree of moral courage and faith in God to bring my mind to the decision to risk so much, especially as I stood alone.... But I knew I had a work to do, and it seemed to me that Satan was determined to keep me from it. I had waited long for our captivity to be turned and feared that precious souls would be lost if I remained longer from the work. To remain longer from the field seemed to me worse than death, and should we move out we could but perish.—Ibid.

    Although there had been temporary gains, James had remained an invalid in spite of her efforts. But remembering the assurances given her in the vision at Rochester, Ellen White could not dismiss the picture in her mind that she and her husband would work together in building up the cause. In recounting the experience some years later, she stated:2BIO 158.2

    We had the assurance that God would raise him up, and we believed he would yet be able to work in the cause of God. I thought my husband should have some change, and we took our team, faithful Jack and Jim, and ventured a journey to Wright, Michigan.2BIO 158.3

    In this matter I was obliged to move contrary to the judgment of my brethren and sisters in Battle Creek. They all felt that I was sacrificing my life in shouldering this burden; that for the sake of my children, for the cause of God, I should do all in my power to preserve my life.2BIO 158.4

    His own father and mother remonstrated with me in tears. Physicians looked pityingly upon me and said, “You will not realize your expectations. There was never known a case where one [so seriously] afflicted with paralysis of the brain recovered.” I answered them, “God will raise him up.”2BIO 158.5

    In answer to the appeals of Father and Mother White that I had done all that was in my power and I must not attempt impossibilities, that my life was precious, that I had children who needed my care, I answered, “As long as life is left in him and me, I will make every exertion for him. That brain, that noble, masterly mind, shall not be left in ruins. God will care for him, for me, for my children. Satan shall not exult over us. You will yet see us standing side by side in the sacred desk, speaking the words of truth unto eternal life.”2BIO 158.6

    I went alone [accompanied by a Brother Rogers], carrying with me the sympathies of many and losing the sympathies of many because I would follow my own judgment, not theirs.—Manuscript 1, 1867.2BIO 159.1

    “So,” reported Ellen White, “on the nineteenth of December, 1866, we left Battle Creek in a snowstorm for Wright, Ottawa County, Michigan. My husband stood the long and severe journey of ninety miles much better than I feared, and seemed quite as well when we reached our old home at Brother Root's as when we left Battle Creek.”—Ibid., 1:570. In the first of a series of reports dictated to his wife for the Review, James White described the journey:2BIO 159.2

    December 19, we left home with our team, in company with Mrs. White and Brother Rogers, for northern Michigan, designing to make Wright, Ottawa County, the first point. The morning was stormy, yet we drove forty-six miles that day, and were obliged to put up at a noisy rum-tavern.... The next morning we arose at five o'clock, and drove to Brother Hardy's, a distance of fifteen miles, against a keen north wind before taking our breakfast. Here we felt to thank God for an Advent home, and simple, healthful fare. We then drove twenty-three miles to our old home at Brother Root's, where we have remained until this date [January 2], enjoying their sympathy and hospitality.2BIO 159.3

    Sabbath morning, the twenty-second, the house of worship was filled with attentive hearers, although there had been no appointment publicly given. We opened the meeting and spoke twenty-five minutes from the words “Will a man rob God?” ...We were then followed by Mrs. White, who spoke more than one hour with freedom upon the subject of health from a religious standpoint.—The Review and Herald, January 15, 1867.2BIO 159.4

    As Ellen White later told the story, she exclaimed exultantly:2BIO 159.5

    Here commenced our first effective labors since the sickness of my husband. Here he commenced to labor as in former years, though in much weakness.—Testimonies for the Church, 1:571.2BIO 160.1

    At long last they were turning a corner, with the promise of better days ahead. But the battle was not fully won. It took some persuasion on her part to get James to prepare reports for the Review. But this was a significant step in his recovery. He dictated the first two reports; to the third he appended a significant note to the editor:2BIO 160.2

    Brother Smith, you see how large a report I have written at this time with mine own hand. I would say to the editor, the typesetter, and proofreader, Be patient with our imperfect scribbling. And to the reader we would say, May God bless our scattered thoughts, in these reports, and make them a blessing.—The Review and Herald, January 29, 1866.2BIO 160.3

    Seven reports in all—portions of some were in almost diary form—kept Review readers informed as to what James and Ellen White were doing in northern Michigan through January, February, and early March. Wright, where they began their labors in late December, was off the beaten path; ministers seldom visited the church. Wrote Ellen White:2BIO 160.4

    We found this church in a very low condition. With a large portion of its members the seeds of disunion and dissatisfaction with one another were taking deep root, and a worldly spirit was taking possession of them. And notwithstanding their low state they had enjoyed the labors of our preachers so seldom that they were hungry for spiritual food.—Testimonies for the Church, 1:570, 571.2BIO 160.5

    The situation was just the challenge James White needed to draw him into active spiritual labor. Their first Sabbath at the church, as already noted, he spoke twenty-five minutes, and Ellen White followed for an hour. In the afternoon she spoke again, continuing on the same subject—health reform.2BIO 160.6

    On Sunday morning the meetings continued, with James leading out for twenty minutes on the topic of diet and dress. Then Ellen followed for an hour and a half. That afternoon she spoke for an hour, continuing on the same subject, particularly as it related to dress, over which there had been some contention in the church.2BIO 160.7

    Ellen White stated in her report, “We were listened to with the greatest attention.”— Ibid. She spoke again Tuesday evening and then again Friday evening, establishing a cycle that would continue for several weeks. As the meetings progressed, she reported:2BIO 161.1

    I saw that my husband was growing stronger, clearer, and more connected in his subjects. And when on one occasion he spoke one hour with clearness and power, with the burden of the work upon him as when he used to speak, my feelings of gratitude were beyond expression. I arose in the congregation and for nearly half an hour tried with weeping to give utterance to them. The congregation felt deeply. I felt assured that this was the dawn of better days for us.— Ibid.2BIO 161.2

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