Ellen G. White: The Early Years: 1827-1862 (vol. 1)

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Chapter 20—(1855) Settling Administrative and Theological Questions

The year 1855 was a time when important administrative and theological problems were settled—the status and future of the Review and Herald office, and the time to begin the Sabbath. Both came to a culmination late in the year. 1BIO 316.1

The issue of the Review dated February 20, 1855, carried an editorial written by James White titled “The Office.” In this he described the rather desperate situation he was in as proprietor, financial agent, and editor. His repeated appeals to the readers for stronger support had gone largely unheeded. Not only was he burdened with financial embarrassment, but there was also the “unreasonableness of ‘false brethren’” comprising the Messenger party. He pointed out that he was laboring from fourteen to eighteen hours a day. Altogether, this nearly ruined the health of 34-year-old James White. He made a rather startling declaration: 1BIO 316.2

We cannot expect a tolerable state of health without a complete change in many respects. We are resolved on this change, even if we leave the office entirely. We hope to live, and, if possible, yet do some little good in the world. 1BIO 316.3

Had we a constitution that could endure care and toil, we would cheerfully wear it out in the holy cause of Bible truth; but having worn out a good constitution in this cause, we can now hope for no more, than that by rest, and care, with the blessing of God, we may yet be able to do something.... 1BIO 316.4

Without capital, and without health, we cannot much longer bear the burden.—The Review and Herald, February 20, 1855. 1BIO 316.5

He proposed (1) to take the proper steps to recover his health; (2) to divest himself and Ellen from the care of the large publishing house family, which would, of course, result in a higher cost of printing, for all in the work had been laboring for little more than their board and room at the White home; (3) to get rid of the office debt of $1,000. There was stock on hand that when sold would liquidate this. He acknowledged that the financial support came principally from understanding brethren in Michigan and Vermont, and declared: “They have our warmest gratitude for their real friendship in time of distress and need.” This was his hope and plan, but it took eight months to implement it, and then only in part. 1BIO 317.1

Under the circumstances he described, the most relaxing and seemingly beneficial course he could take was to travel leisurely by horse and carriage, visiting the churches and companies of believers. In the Review of March 20 he set forth his developing plans: 1BIO 317.2

We are now calculating to leave the office for several months, and if health will permit, attend conferences in this State [New York]; and about the first of May start with private carriage for New England, and hold meetings by the way at Oswego, Lorain, Pottsdam, and Champlain. We should be happy to join the Vermont tent, in northern New York, and follow on with it through Vermont and New Hampshire, on our way to Massachusetts and Maine. 1BIO 317.3

A hastily planned trip back to Michigan, however, delayed the start for the East. At Battle Creek a conference was held in “a private house,” for as yet the Sabbathkeeping Adventists had no house of worship in the State. Here he had an opportunity to discuss the future of the Review and the Review office. He wrote of it as “a meeting of interest to God's people.” The published report told why: 1BIO 317.4

The brethren in Battle Creek and vicinity are generally awake to the wants of the cause, and are anxious to establish the Review office in that place. They are able and willing to do so, and manifest much anxiety to relieve us of those cares and responsibilities which we have too long borne. The climate, water, prices of rent, fuel, provisions, et cetera, seem favorable to the location.—Ibid., May 15, 1855 1BIO 317.5

James and Ellen remained in Battle Creek through the week following the conference, and were with the church on Sabbath, May 5. Three men were present who, as James White put it, “preach constantly.” But this time there was no preaching. In the veiled manner in which he usually referred in print to Ellen's having a public vision, he wrote: 1BIO 318.1

The Lord took the lead in the meeting in an especial manner, and manifested His power and goodness in our midst. The saints were filled with joy and gratitude to God for the encouragement and instruction given at this meeting.—Ibid. 1BIO 318.2

The extant records furnish little as to just what was the nature of the “encouragement and instruction,” except one very interesting item preserved in the E. G. White manuscript files relating to her conversation with the angel about James: 1BIO 318.3

I then inquired if James would be spared or would be removed before the time of trouble. Said the angel, “What is that to thee? Follow Jesus, follow the opening providence of God. Have unwavering faith in His promises.” ... 1BIO 318.4

In regard to the office and what our duty is in regard to it, I had no light, but was cited to other visions that God had given. “Look at them carefully; lose not sight of the opening providences of God. Carefully regard all His teachings and obey them.” 1BIO 318.5

I saw that no longer should those connected with the office bear burdens they have borne.... They must be free in mind, and then their health will improve.—Manuscript 3, 1885. 1BIO 318.6

Through most of May they were in Michigan attending and assisting in the tent meetings. Returning home, James reported, 1BIO 318.7

My health gradually improves, and my spirit is getting perfectly free while freed from the cares of the office, and mingling with the Lord's faithful, scattered ones.—Ibid., May 29, 1855 1BIO 318.8