Ellen White: Woman of Vision


Chapter 2—Called to Be a Messenger

Difficult days challenged the Advent believers in Portland, Maine, following the great disappointment of October 22, 1844. Some clung to the hope that the mistake involved a miscalculation of only a few days, and lived in constant expectancy. They believed that Jesus would come at almost any moment and that probation was closed. But as the days stretched into weeks and Jesus did not come, their faith began to waver. WV 26.1

“Why, oh, why were we disappointed?” their hearts cried out. They had been confident that God had been leading them as they studied, worked, and prayed. How could they be mistaken in the integrity of the 1844 date? WV 26.2

By December most of the believers in the Portland area had abandoned their confidence in Miller's interpretation. Every passing day drove home the conviction that nothing of prophetic significance had taken place on October 22. WV 26.3

Nothing could have been more timely and calculated to cheer the spirits of the dedicated believers than the vision given to Ellen Harmon in December in the Haines home. This presented an entirely different picture. God had led His people. The light behind them that shone all along the path was the Midnight Cry. The vision revealed that they were at the beginning of the path rather than at the end. If they trusted the light and kept their eyes fixed on Jesus, they would safely enter into their reward. WV 26.4

About one week later Ellen was given a second vision. The vision troubled her much, for in it she was commissioned to go out among the people and present the truths that God had revealed to her. Her health was poor; she was in constant bodily suffering; tuberculosis ravaged her lungs; and in every way she appeared “marked for the grave.” Her family was without money; it was midwinter in Maine; she was timid, and entertained serious misgivings about traveling and coming before the people with the claim to have had visions. WV 26.5

For several days and far into the night Ellen prayed that God would remove the burden from her and place it on someone more capable of bearing it. But constantly the words of the angel sounded in her ears: “Make known to others what I have revealed to you” (Life Sketches of James White and Ellen G. White (1880), 194). WV 26.6

The first telling of the vision in her parents’ home in Portland apparently took place within a few days of the vision itself, which she later pinpointed as having occurred in December 1844. What a relief this brought to the Adventists in Portland! They knew her family. They had heard that a vision had been given to her, and when they heard it from her own lips they accepted what she told them as a message from God. It met a need in their experience. According to James White, about 60 belonging to the Advent band in Portland accepted the vision and through it regained their confidence in the fulfillment of prophecy concerning October 22, 1844 (A Word to the Little Flock, 22). WV 26.7

But the task of traveling and sharing the vision seemed to her impossible to accomplish and doomed to failure. Oh, how welcome death would have been, for it would have released her from the responsibilities that were crowding in upon her. She talked with her father of her perplexities. He repeatedly assured her that if God had called her to a public ministry, He would not fail her. But to Ellen it seemed impossible to submit to the commission. WV 27.1

Soon the peace of God that she had enjoyed left her. She even refused to attend the meetings held in her home. But one evening she was persuaded to be present. At this meeting John Pearson encouraged her to surrender her will to the will of God. In her distress she could not muster courage to bring her own will into play. But now her heart united with the petitions of her friends. She later recounted: WV 27.2

While prayer was offered for me, that the Lord would give me strength and courage to bear the message, the thick darkness that had encompassed me rolled back, and a sudden light came upon me. Something that seemed to me like a ball of fire struck me right over the heart. My strength was taken away, and I fell to the floor. I seemed to be in the presence of the angels. One of these holy beings again repeated the words, “Make known to others what I have revealed to you” (Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, 71). WV 27.3

When Ellen regained consciousness, Elder Pearson, who because of rheumatism could not kneel, stood and declared: WV 27.4

“I have seen a sight such as I never expected to see. A ball of fire came down from heaven, and struck Sister Ellen Harmon right on the heart. I saw it! I saw it! I can never forget it. It has changed my whole being. Sister Ellen, have courage in the Lord. After this night I will never doubt again” (Ibid.). WV 27.5