Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 1 (1844 - 1868)


Ms 5, 1863

Early Trials and Labors



Previously unpublished.

[NOTE: An account, written in Ellen White’s handwriting, of the early trials and sufferings of Ellen and James White in parting with little Henry. Apparently written in connection with Appeal to the Youth.] 1LtMs, Ms 5, 1863, par. 1

They [the Whites] were urged to travel and labor for the upbuilding of the cause of truth, but they felt excused because it was winter and it would be so inconvenient to travel with the babe. Their way seemed to be beset with trials and privations. Elder White could not get his just dues for labor which he had done, and in consequence suffered for the necessaries of life. 1LtMs, Ms 5, 1863, par. 2

His mother fainted, with little Henry in her arms, for want of nourishing food. At one time there was a question in her mind whether to spend six pence to buy a simple calico apron to cover the naked arms of little Henry or spend the money for a pint of milk. She decided to do without the milk and purchase the little apron. 1LtMs, Ms 5, 1863, par. 3

The Lord did not prosper them in settling down at home. Elder White suffered much from rheumatism in his wrists after chopping cord wood for fifty cents a day. [Their] way seemed beset with difficulties. Little Henry was taken sick with inflammation of the lungs and all who saw him thought his recovery doubtful. They were convicted that they might be neglecting their duty and displeasing God by neglecting to warn sinners to prepare for Christ’s coming. 1LtMs, Ms 5, 1863, par. 4

Their minds were much troubled. They went to Jesus with their trouble. They prayed the Saviour to rebuke disease, but with anguish they saw the little one fast failing. All earthly means failed to relieve his suffering. The parents continued to plead most earnestly for their child, who seemed to be fast failing. To all appearance he must die. It was then conviction flashed upon them that they might not be in the way of their duty in excusing themselves from traveling and presenting the truth to those who were in the darkness of error. Then they made an entire surrender to God to go out and labor wherever He would open the way before them. Sweet peace came to their hearts. Much of the night was spent in earnest prayer. While they were pleading with God to spare the life of little Henry, he fell into a sweet sleep, which was feared to be the sleep of death. He then slept for several hours. When he awoke the fever was gone and he recovered rapidly. 1LtMs, Ms 5, 1863, par. 5

Elder White received pay for his work and found he had ten dollars. An urgent call came from Connecticut for them to labor in that state and they dared not refuse. They took little Henry and went forth to labor in the vineyard of the Lord. His parents labored in Connecticut for the spiritual benefit of the people and their work did not end here. They worked with their hands that they might not be burdensome to anyone, and the care and burdens of the work in the vineyard of the Lord, with the addition of labor outside of their ministerial duties, was too great a tax for the mother with the care of her child. 1LtMs, Ms 5, 1863, par. 6

The burden of speaking and ministering to the church, and the additional burdens of labor to pay their way that they should not feel that they were burdensome to anyone, were too heavy a burden. The mother broke down under these burdens and for months was unable even to have the care of her little Henry. She was a great sufferer for years in consequence of this over-labor. 1LtMs, Ms 5, 1863, par. 7

The parents were solicited to attend the first conference ever held in New York, but the mother was not able to go and it was impossible to take her child. She tried to rely upon the promises of God and parted from little Henry, leaving him in the care of Sister Bonfoey. This was a trial to the mother. The Lord strengthened her in answer to special prayer for the Lord to heal her that she might endure the journey, and He gave her strength to do an interesting and important work for the cause of God in New York. 1LtMs, Ms 5, 1863, par. 8

Their hearts were made glad to return in safety to Connecticut and meet their dear Henry again. Here the Lord, in answer to prayer, had spared the life of Henry and had blessed and healed the mother to do the work God had given her to do, and the parents felt that God plainly indicated their duty, that they must give themselves fully to the work, laboring unreservedly in the cause of God. They dared not excuse themselves on account of the child, and the only way that seemed to open for them was to leave their little one, only one year old, for another to act the mother’s duty and have the mother’s care. There were many prayers offered by the mother, many tears shed, and many severe soul conflicts. Her heart seemed to be bound up with her child. But the sacrifice was made, the conflict was over. They laid the child upon the altar. They solicited that Sister Frances Howland, of Topsham, Maine, should take care of the child. She consented cheerfully to accept the charge. The mother well remembered the expression of the sad yet beautiful little face as he was brought to the carriage to receive the parting kiss. 1LtMs, Ms 5, 1863, par. 9

The mother could say in her heart, I do it for Thee, Jesus, who has done so much for me. Tears would come, but there was a peace and rest in Jesus, a firm confidence that He who had called them to the work would accept the child and guard him and love him as a lamb of His fold. He remained in this kind family for six years. The sweet disposition of this child, his attractive ways and his affection, which he ever manifested for those who had the care of him, and for all his friends, endeared him to all who knew him. The parents could only visit their little Henry occasionally, when it would not interfere with their duty. They had the fullest confidence that he was receiving the best of care and that he was loved by the entire family. 1LtMs, Ms 5, 1863, par. 10

The parents visited their aged parents, Grandfather and Grandmother White, taking Henry and Edson with them. This was a very pleasant week, never to be forgotten. It was greatly enjoyed by all parties. The children’s hearts seemed to take in the grandparents, whom they had seen for the first time in their life. And the grandparents were pleased and their affection went out for these little strangers with a love that did not waver as long as they lived. 1LtMs, Ms 5, 1863, par. 11