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


Important Lessons to Learn in Treating Disease

Six months after the health reform vision, Henry, their oldest son, took sick with pneumonia, as already noted, and eight days later died. Why? Neither James White nor Ellen had yet had an opportunity to acquaint themselves with steps to take in combating disease through the use of rational methods. Some weeks before, James had sent for Dr. Jackson's books, but at the onset of Henry's severe illness the books were still in their wrappers (The Review and Herald, October 8, 1867). They had been traveling and had had little time to read. Although the experienced physician had administered drugs, their son died. What a jolt this gave them. They doubtless recalled successfully treating diphtheria ten months earlier through the rational use of water and the application of other simple remedies. 2BIO 76.3

Then during the second week of February, 1864, Willie was stricken with pneumonia. Now James and Ellen White were confronted with a dilemma that could mean life or death to one of their two remaining children. Ellen White reported their daring decision. 2BIO 76.4

We decided that we would not send for a physician, but do the best we could with him ourselves by the use of water, and entreat the Lord in behalf of the child. We called in a few who had faith to unite their prayers with ours. We had a sweet assurance of God's presence and blessing.—Spiritual Gifts, 4a:151. Nor was there any delay in making a beginning: 2BIO 76.5

The next day Willie was very sick. He was wandering. He did not seem to see or hear me when I spoke to him. His heart had no regular beat, but was in a constant agitated flutter. We continued to look to God in his behalf, and to use water freely upon his head, and a compress constantly upon his lungs, and soon he seemed rational as ever. He suffered severe pain in his right side, and could not lie upon it for a moment. This pain we subdued with cold water compresses, varying the temperature of the water according to the degree of the fever. We were very careful to keep his hands and feet warm.—Ibid., 4a:151, 152. 2BIO 77.1

Writing of the experience a few days later, February 22, 1864, Ellen White declared: 2BIO 77.2

We have been so anxious and have been obliged to watch over him day and night until we are much worn, and my head aches nearly all the time.—Letter 5, 1864. 2BIO 77.3

At the same time James White wrote: 2BIO 77.4

The key [to the prophetic chart] will be ready soon. We had set apart the last week to complete it; but that has been a sad week, watching our Willie, very sick with lung fever. Thank God, he is fast recovering.—The Review and Herald, February 23, 1864.

From these words from mother and father, it is very clear that the application of hydrotherapy in such a case called for tireless effort. But it produced good results. Ellen White picks up the details of the story's final outcome: 2BIO 77.5

We expected the crisis would come the seventh day. We had but little rest during his sickness, and were obliged to give him up into others’ care the fourth and fifth nights. My husband and myself the fifth day felt very anxious. The child raised fresh blood, and coughed considerably. My husband spent much time in prayer. 2BIO 77.6

We left our child in careful hands that night. Before retiring, my husband prayed long and earnestly. Suddenly his burden of prayer left him, and it seemed as though a voice spoke to him, and said, “Go lie down; I will take care of the child.” I had retired sick, and could not sleep for anxiety for several hours. I felt pressed for breath. Although sleeping in a large chamber, I arose and opened the door into a large hall, and was at once relieved, and soon slept. 2BIO 77.7

I dreamed that an experienced physician was standing by my child, watching every breath, with one hand over his heart, and with the other feeling his pulse. He turned to us and said, “The crisis has passed. He has seen his worst night. He will now come up speedily, for he has not the injurious influence of drugs [Obviously, reference to drugs here is to those poisonous substances commonly employed before even the discovery of the cause of most diseases. See Selected Messages 2:279-285; 441-454.] to recover from. Nature has nobly done her work to rid the system of impurities.” 2BIO 78.1

I related to him my worn-out condition, my pressure for breath, and the relief obtained by opening the door. Said he, “That which gave you relief will also relieve your child. He needs air. You have kept him too warm. The heated air coming from a stove is injurious, and were it not for the air coming in at the crevices of the windows, would be poisonous, and destroy life. Stove heat destroys the vitality of the air, and weakens the lungs. The child's lungs have been weakened by the room being kept too warm. Sick persons are debilitated by disease, and need all the invigorating air that they can bear to strengthen the vital organs to resist disease. And yet in most cases air and light are excluded from the sickroom at the very time when most needed, as though dangerous enemies.”—Spiritual Gifts, 4a:152, 153. 2BIO 78.2

What consolation this dream, and the assurance that came to her husband a few hours before, brought to them. She reports: 2BIO 78.3

We found in the morning that our boy had passed a restless night. He seemed to be in a high fever until noon. Then the fever left him, and he appeared quite well, except weak. 2BIO 78.4

He had eaten but one small cracker through his five days’ sickness. He came up rapidly, and has had better health than he has had for several years before.—Ibid., 4a:153. 2BIO 78.5

She added the significant words “This experience is valuable to us.” What contrasting, thought-provoking object lessons James and Ellen White had experienced in just eleven weeks! Now, more than ever, they knew that they must dig deep and learn how to combat disease, and about sound dietetic principles. They determined then and there that at the earliest possible time they must visit the medical institution operated by Dr. Jackson and his associates at Dansville, New York, and gain all they could in practical lines. But Ellen White still had ahead of her the finishing of Spiritual Gifts,, Volume III, and James White had the burden of managing the interests of the Publishing Association and editing the Review and Herald. 2BIO 78.6