The Ellen G. White Letters and Manuscripts: Volume 1


Lt 10, 1853

[May 1853, Rochester, New York]1 1EGWLM 342.7

Letter to
Mary S. Chase.
1EGWLM 342.8

Portions of this letter are published in Ellen G. White, Spiritual Gifts [vol. 2], pp. 174-178; James White, A Brief Account of the Last Sickness and Death of Nathaniel White, Who Died May 6th, 1853, pp. 8-10.

The final hours of Nathaniel White, James White's brother. 1EGWLM 342.9

“I know I love God and He loves me,” said he [Nathaniel White].2 “There is much more I wish to say but have not strength.”3 1EGWLM 343.1

It was with a strong effort he said as much as he did. Before he commenced talking, James [James Springer White] assisted him to rise from the bed, according to his wish, and sit in the rocking chair. He was so exhausted it was some minutes before he could speak. James told him not to be in a hurry, but take all the time he wanted. The windows in his room had to be lowered at the top and raised at the bottom, for him to have air in order to speak more freely. 1EGWLM 343.2

After he had said what he wished to, we united in prayer with him. It was a sweet season. He manifested great interest while we were praying, responding to our prayer, saying, “Amen,” and “Praise the Lord; glory to God. I will praise Him, for He is worthy to be praised. His name is Jesus, and He will save us from our sins.” 1EGWLM 343.3

He prayed with us, but was unable to sit up. James told him he could lie on the bed just as well. So he prayed lying upon the bed. He prayed earnestly and in faith. He did not ask to get well, but for a full consecration to God's will, to be baptized with His Spirit, and purified by His blood. Said he, “Thou hast forgiven me all my sins, and blotted them out from Thy remembrance. Thou hast sanctified me to Thyself. And I will honor Thee as long as I have breath.” 1EGWLM 343.4

His eyes were very bright. His face shone, and he looked very happy. He said the room seemed light and he loved us all. After we arose from our knees, he said, “Anna [Anna White],4 I love you. Come here.” She went to his bedside and he embraced her. He seemed to be very joyful and said, “I am happy. The Lord has blessed me.” James and Anna participated in his joy and happiness. It was a weeping, rejoicing time for us all. Nathaniel was triumphant in God through the day, although he was very sick. He said he wished someone to be with him to lift him that day. He said he wanted them with him every moment. His wish was granted. I did not attend to anything else that day, but sat in his room and entertained him by reading the Bible and conversing with him. And then Stephen Belden [Stephen Belden], my brother-in-law,5 who loved Nathaniel dearly, and Nathaniel loved him for his piety and devotion, was at home and did not go to the office but stood ready to move and lift Nathaniel at any moment. And although he was so weak, yet he seemed happy. As I read the Bible to him, he would say, “How appropriate that is, how beautiful. I must remember that.” 1EGWLM 343.5

At one time that day Anna and I were sitting with him. He spoke out and said, “I don't think my lungs are affected any, it is my stomach.” And just before he had told us his right lung did not afford him any breath and his left was clogging with phlegm. He ever seemed anxious to conceal his true situation from us and to make us think he was in a better situation than he was. When he said nothing was the matter with his lungs, I looked at Anna, and she at me, in astonishment. Neither of us spoke. Anna soon left the room. I then said, “Nathaniel, you are very sick. You may die in two hours, and unless God interposes, you cannot live two days.” 1EGWLM 344.1

He said very calmly, “Oh, not so soon as that, I guess.” He immediately arose from the bed, sat in the rocking chair and commenced talking. He went back to the time when he was converted,6 told how much he enjoyed his experience, how afraid he was of sinning, and then when he began to forget God and lose the blessing, and then how high his hopes were raised; he meant to be a man in the world, to get an education and fill some high station. 1EGWLM 344.2

And then he told how his hopes had died as affliction's hand pressed heavily upon him, how hard it was for him to give up his expectations. He was unreconciled to this sickness. He said he felt that he could not have it so. He would be well, he would not yield to it, he would shake it off. 1EGWLM 344.3

Then he spoke of the time when he was at Boston [Massachusetts], how feeble he was, how hard he tried to bear up, and sometimes he suffered so in mind he was afraid he would be crazy. And often when his labor was finished and he went to his boarding place and to his room, which was up three flights of stairs, his limbs would become so weak and his head so dizzy he would be obliged to hold on to the railing of the stairs to keep from falling backward. And his heart would beat so violently he would have to sit down and rest before he could go any farther. After he rested a little, he would go on again. Often he was obliged to lie upon the bed with his clothes on until he was rested. He said his feelings at such times were almost desperate. He would almost speak aloud, “I will not give up to it, I will shake this off. I will be a man. I will be well. I will be somebody and let my friends know I am somebody.” 1EGWLM 344.4

He said he murmured against God and thought it was cruel that he could not have strength. 1EGWLM 345.1

Then he spoke of his coming to Rochester [New York], how trying it was to have us wait upon him, and how galling was the idea that he was dependent. He said, “It seemed to me that the kindness, the brotherly kindness of you all, was more than I could bear. It seemed as though it would kill me, and I have thought I wanted to get well to pay you for all this.” 1EGWLM 345.2

He then spoke of his embracing the Sabbath. Said he, “At first I was not willing to acknowledge the light I saw. I wished to conceal it, but the blessing of God was withheld from me until I acknowledged the Sabbath. Then I felt confidence toward God.” Said he, “I love the Sabbath now, it is precious to me.” Said he, “I now feel reconciled to my sickness. I know that it is the only thing that will save me. I praise the Lord if He can save me through affliction. I know, yes, I know, it is the only thing that will save me and bring me right.” Said he, “I have been impatient sometimes through my sickness, but for some weeks I have been getting the victory. I know, Ellen, that I am the Lord's and He is mine. I love Him and He loves me. For three weeks I have enjoyed sweet communion with God in secret prayer. I have often felt His sweet Spirit, and felt as though I could shout at the top of my voice and praise God.” 1EGWLM 345.3

Said he, “My trust is in God today, and I will trust in Him if my breath stops today.” His face lighted up as he praised the Lord for His goodness. 1EGWLM 345.4

He said much that I cannot now write. He seemed to be tired after he had ceased talking, and wished to lie down. I called Stephen, who assisted him on the bed. He rested awhile until his dinner was brought in and he was helped up. [He] sat in the rocking chair and ate his dinner as though it tasted good. He ate unusually heartily, and then wished to ride out. 1EGWLM 345.5

We felt afraid to have him go, and tried to persuade him not to, but he was set about it. He felt that he must go. Said he, “I will lie down and rest me while Stephen is getting ready.” We told him we were fearful the wind was too strong, and the day before he had raised much blood. But he insisted upon going. Said he, “Stephen can lift me from the bed, and hold me up in his arms while you put on my coat and cap, and then he can put me in the carriage, and it need not tire me at all.” 1EGWLM 345.6

Anna was afraid to ride out with him that day. So I put on my bonnet and shawl and got his coat and hat. The horse was harnessed at the door. Stephen lifted him from the bed, and while he sat upon the side of the bed we put on his rubbers and were putting on his coat, got one arm into one sleeve and about to put in the other arm when we noticed a flush come over his face from his forehead to his chin. He looked up, while a painful smile came over his face, and said, “I shall have to give it up, I guess. I find I shall have to trust in God a little longer. But I hate dreadfully to give it up. Now, if I had been sitting in the chair, I could have gone, but it makes me weak to lie on the bed.” 1EGWLM 345.7

He sat a few minutes and said, “I have a good mind to get up and run and give one leap and go into that carriage and ride.” 1EGWLM 346.1

I sat with him through the afternoon. He talked perfectly calm about different things. Said he, “I have been wondering what made my feet so hot. I have my rubbers on.” I came to look, and asked him if I should take them off. He said, “Yes.” I sat upon the floor and took one foot in my lap and took off one of his rubbers and then the other. This I did so that I should not wrench his body any. He looked at me and smiled. That was the last little act I did for dear Nathaniel. 1EGWLM 346.2

In the course of the afternoon he would speak often of his disappointment because he could not ride out. About five o'clock P. M. he sent for me, as I had just stepped out of his room. He said he wished us to pray with him, for he was some pressed for breath. A number of us went into his room and prayed for him and he prayed for himself. We were half an hour upon our knees. When we arose, he said he was some better. At our usual supper time we prepared poor Nathaniel's supper, and Anna carried it in to him and wanted to sit with him. But he wished her to go out and eat with the rest of the family. I said, “I will sit with Nathaniel.” Brother Stephen Belden was in the room, and he said he would like to have Stephen sit with him. Stephen lifted him from the bed and sat him in the rocking chair. Said Stephen, “Will you eat now?” “Well,” said Nathaniel, “it is hardly my supper time.” But he cast his eyes upon the watch that hung up before him, and said, “Yes, it is, but I am not hungry. I ate a hearty dinner.” 1EGWLM 346.3

In a few minutes he said he felt faint and did not know but [what] he was going to die. Stephen said, “Oh, I guess not.” He sent for us, and we all went into his room. I had not had time to taste anything before I was called. As soon as I entered the room, I knew that he was dying. For a moment he seemed to be troubled. I said, “Nathaniel, dear, trust in God; He loves you, and you love Him. Trust right in Him as a child trusts in its parents. Don't be troubled. The Lord will not leave you.” Said he, “Yes, yes.” 1EGWLM 346.4

We prayed, and he responded, “Amen, praise the Lord.” As I saw he was going, I put my hand upon his forehead and commended him to God and prayed that he might have an easy passage, and that the light of God would shine around him. He turned his large bright eyes upon us and smiled. He did not seem to suffer pain, but breathed shorter and shorter, rocking in his chair, until about three minutes before he died. He did not groan once or struggle or move a muscle of his face or limbs, but breathed shorter and shorter until he fell asleep. 1EGWLM 346.5

This was a house of mourning indeed. Sabbath and first-day I was in a high fever. I could not shed a tear. I felt as though my heart would burst. I was not able to shed a tear until the funeral. When they were about to screw on the coffin lid and we were taking our last look at him before he was carried out of the house, then I found relief in tears. 1EGWLM 347.1

As soon as we came from the place of his burial, or the vault we laid him in,7 I fainted quite away. Poor Anna felt his death as keenly as one could feel it, but we begged of her to be calm or she would sink beneath it. She heeded what we had to say as much as she could and tried to restrain her feelings and govern them for our sake and the sake of her health.8 1EGWLM 347.2

Dear Sister Mary [Mary S. Chase],9 I did not think of writing only three pages when I commenced, but I knew not where to stop. You must excuse all mistakes, for I have written in great haste. We love dear Anna very much. I know of no difference of feeling between her and my own natural sisters. Our hearts are knit together. Anna is a sweet, good girl. 1EGWLM 347.3

After you read this please send it to your parents [John and Betsey White] for them and Sister Elizabeth [Elizabeth (“Lizzie”) W. Tenney]10 to read, and then if you wish it I will see that you have it again. We shall come to Palmyra [Maine] when we go East, and I then hope to have the privilege of seeing you.11 And we can tell you more about dear Nathaniel than I can write. 1EGWLM 347.4

My husband's health is improving some. Please write to me. I should be much pleased to hear from you. James sends his love. Receive the same from your unworthy sister. 1EGWLM 347.5

E. G. White.

Please remember me to your parents and Lizzie. I have not forgotten them, but often think of our short visit to Palmyra with pleasure.12 1EGWLM 348.1

Picture: 12-page tract describing the death of James White's brother, Nathaniel. Courtesy of the Center for Adventist Research.