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Note: Since criticisms about Ellen White's life are dealt with elsewhere on this site, we here simply let her tell in her own words her life story.—WebMaster
Autobiographical Sketch of Ellen G. White

Chapter 12: Publishing and Traveling

Divine Intervention

In the summer of 1853, we made our first journey to the State of Michigan. After publishing our appointments, my husband was prostrated with fever. We united in prayer for him, but though relieved, he still remained very weak. We were in great perplexity. Must we be driven from the work by bodily infirmities? Would Satan be permitted to exercise his power upon us, and contend for our usefulness and lives as long as we should remain in the world? We knew that God could limit the power of Satan. He might suffer us to be tried in the furnace, but would bring us forth purified and better fitted for His work.

Alone I poured out my soul before God in prayer that He would rebuke the disease and strengthen my husband to endure the journey. The case was urgent, and my faith firmly grasped the promises of God. I there obtained the evidence that if we should proceed on our journey to Michigan, the angel of God would go with us. When I related to my husband the exercise of my mind, he said that his own mind had been exercised in a similar manner, and we decided to go, trusting in the Lord. Every mile we traveled he felt strengthened. The Lord sustained him. And while he was preaching the word, I felt assured that angels of God were standing by his side to sustain him in his labors.

On this journey my husband's mind was much exercised upon the subject of spiritualism, and soon after our return he engaged in writing the book entitled, Signs of the Times. He was still feeble, and could sleep but little, but the Lord was his support. When his mind was in a confused, suffering state, we would bow before God, and in our distress cry unto Him. He heard our earnest prayers, and often blessed my husband so that with refreshed spirits he went on with the work. Many times in the day did we thus go before the Lord in earnest prayer. That book was not written in his own strength.

In the winter and spring I suffered much from heart disease. It was difficult for me to breathe while lying down, and I could not sleep unless raised in nearly a sitting posture. My breath often stopped, and I often fainted. I had upon my left eyelid a swelling which appeared to be a cancer. It had been increasing gradually for more than a year, until it had become quite painful, and affected my sight. When reading or writing, I was forced to bandage the afflicted eye. I feared that it was to be destroyed by a cancer. I looked back to the days and nights spent in reading proof sheets, which had strained my eyes, and thought: "If I lose my eye and my life, they will be sacrificed to the cause of God."

About this time a celebrated physician who gave counsel free visited Rochester, and I decided to have him examine my eye. He thought the swelling would prove to be a cancer. But upon feeling my pulse, he said: "You are much diseased, and will die of apoplexy before that swelling shall break out. You are in a dangerous condition with disease of the heart." This did not startle me, for I had been aware that without speedy relief I must go down to the grave. Two other women who had come for counsel were suffering with the same disease. The physician said that I was in a more dangerous condition than either of them, and it could not be more than three weeks before I would be afflicted with paralysis. I asked if he thought his medicine would cure me. He did not give me much encouragement. I tried the remedies which he prescribed, but received no benefit.

In about three weeks I fainted and fell to the floor, and remained nearly unconscious about thirty-six hours. It was feared that I could not live, but in answer to prayer I again revived. One week later I received a shock upon my left side. I had a strange sensation of coldness and numbness in my head, and severe pain in my temples. My tongue seemed heavy and numb; I could not speak plainly. My left arm and side were helpless. I thought I was dying, and my great anxiety was to have the evidence in my sufferings that the Lord loved me. For months I had suffered continual pain in my heart, and my spirits were constantly depressed. I had tried to serve God from principle without feeling, but I now thirsted for the salvation of God, I longed to realize His blessing not withstanding my physical suffering.

The brethren and sisters came together to make my case a special subject of prayer. My desire was granted; I received the blessing of God, and had the assurance that He loved me. But the pain continued, and I grew more feeble every hour. Again the brethren and sisters assembled to present my case to the Lord. I was so weak that I could not pray vocally. My appearance seemed to weaken the faith of those around me. Then the promises of God were arrayed before me as I had never viewed them before. It seemed to me that Satan was striving to tear me from my husband and children and lay me in the grave, and these questions were suggested to my mind: Can you believe the naked promise of God? Can you walk out by faith, let the appearance be what it may? Faith revived. I whispered to my husband: "I believe that I shall recover." He answered: "I wish I could believe it." I retired that night without relief, yet relying with firm confidence upon the promises of God. I could not sleep, but continued my silent prayer. Just before day I fell asleep.

I awoke at sunrise perfectly free from pain. The pressure upon my heart was gone, and I was very happy. Oh, what a change! It seemed to me that an angel of God had touched me while I was sleeping. I was filled with gratitude. The praise of God was upon my lips. I awoke my husband, and related to him the wonderful work that the Lord had wrought for me. He could scarcely comprehend it at first; but when I arose and dressed and walked around the house, he could praise God with me. My afflicted eye was free from pain. In a few days the swelling disappeared, and my eyesight was fully restored. The work was complete.

Again I visited the physician, and as soon as he felt my pulse, he said: "Madam, an entire change has taken place in your system; but the two women who visited me for counsel when you were last here are dead." I stated to him that his medicine had not cured me, as I could take none of it. After I left, the doctor said to a friend of mine: "Her case is a mystery. I do not understand it."

1850's Locomotive—Texas State Archives.
We soon visited Michigan again, and I endured long and wearisome journeys over the rough logways, and through mud sloughs, and my strength failed not. We felt that the Lord would have us visit Wisconsin, and arranged to take the cars at Jackson at ten in the evening.

As we were preparing to take the train, we felt very solemn, and proposed a season of prayer. And as we there committed ourselves to God, we could not refrain from weeping. We went to the depot with feelings of deep solemnity. On boarding the train, we went into a forward car, which had seats with high backs, hoping that we might sleep some that night. The car was full, and we passed back into the next, and there found seats. I did not, as usual when traveling in the night, lay off my bonnet, but held my carpetbag in my hand, as if waiting for something. We both spoke of our singular feelings.

The train had run about three miles from Jackson when its motion became very violent, jerking backward and forward, and finally stopping. I opened the window, and saw one car raised nearly upon end. I heard agonizing groans, and there was great confusion. The engine had been thrown from the track; but the car we were in was on the track, and was separated about one hundred feet from those before it. The baggage car was not much damaged, and our large trunk of books was uninjured. The second-class car was crushed, and the pieces, with the passengers, were thrown on both sides of the track. The car in which we tried to get a seat was much broken, and one end was raised upon the heap of ruins. The coupling did not break, but the car we were in was unfastened from the one before it, as if an angel had separated them. Four were killed or mortally wounded, and many were much injured. We could but feel that God had sent an angel to preserve our lives.

We returned to Jackson, and the next day took the train for Wisconsin. Our visit to that state was blessed of God. Souls were converted as the result of our efforts. The Lord strengthened me to endure the tedious journey.

(Testimonies for the Church, pp. 91-95)


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