Would you like to know how Ellen Harmon, my grandmother, met James White, her husband? Here is the story:
One day William Jordan and his sister invited Ellen on a trip to Orrington, a town a 150 miles to the northeast.
We’re returning a borrowed horse and sleigh to a young Adventist minister named James White. He’s having trouble with some fanatics. If you come with us, you might be able to straighten them out.”
This was a hard decision for Ellen. Was it really her duty to go? She dreaded meeting those fanatics. Yet she had promised to go wherever the Lord wanted her. She prayed, and the answer came that if she would go, trusting in God, he would send an angel to show her what to do and to protect her from harm.
Soon the three were gliding over the snow to the rhythm of sleigh bells and the beat of horses’ hoofs. After a ride that must have required nearly two days, they reached their destination late one afternoon. Weary from the long journey, Ellen took little notice of the young minister to whom she was introduced that evening.
The next morning after praying together, the three decided to go with James White, the young minister, to call on a family living near town. James would take them with the horse and sleigh they had returned to him.
When they reached the place, they noticed several sleighs in the yard and asked, “Are you having a meeting here today?”
“No,” they were told. “These people have come on various errands. They just happened to arrive about the same time.” Ellen remembered the promise that an angel would go with her. Had the angel gathered these people so that they might hear God’s message?
Everyone was invited into the front room, and Ellen was asked to tell them about her visions. She stood up and began to speak, but was interrupted by a loud shout of “Glory Alleluia!” Some of the people began clapping their hands, jumping up and down, and shouting. Ellen stopped telling her story and spoke to them seriously:
“Is this the way for Christians to act? I do not read in the Bible that Christ and His disciples ever behaved in such an unbecoming manner. Is He not our example?”
James White then opened his Bible and read to them that God is a God of order, not of confusion; that the Holy Spirit speaks to hearts by a “still small voice.” He said, “Satan is leading you to act in this way, so as to cause your neighbors to hate the name of Adventists and never again want to hear you talk about the coming of Jesus.” After a while the noise subsided, and Ellen continued her story.
From this home the visiting party called on other families, and during the weeks that followed they held meetings in several towns nearby. Sometimes they met people with strange ideas. One man was preaching that Jesus had returned to the earth, raised the dead, and taken them to heaven.
“Do you not know, Ellen asked that when Jesus comes in power and glory, the trumpet of God will be heard all the way around the world, the sleeping saints will be raised to life, and those who are living will be changed and ‘caught up……with them ….to meet the Lord in the air’? Has this taken place? You have not yet seen Christ coming with power and glory.”
Some people believed it their duty to make long journeys on foot in order to earn salvation. Others fasted, refusing to eat anything for days at a time, and they insisted that their friends do the same. Some accepted every idea that entered their minds as coming from the Lord. As soon as they got a notion that they should do a certain thing they would rush off and do it, without stopping to question whether they were pleasing Jesus and obeying the instruction He had given them in the Bible.
At one home a meeting was already in progress when James white and Ellen and her friends arrived. Someone inside saw them coming and quickly locked the door. “In the name of the Lord” Ellen opened that locked door, and they entered. What a strange sight they saw! A woman was lying on the floor, crying pitifully and warning the others not to listen to Ellen Harmon. Ellen knelt by her side and in the name of Jesus rebuked the evil spirit that possessed her. The woman arose and quietly took her seat with the others. She made no further disturbance while Ellen spoke to the company about Jesus, who makes His followers good, pure, and sensible.
Day after day the visiting group went from home to home delivering God’s messages and rebuking fanatics. In many places they found the believers troubled by these noisy religionists. A few people had given the impression by their shouting that Adventists were a rowdy crowd. Some of their neighbors had even complained of them to the police.
At the entrance of one town sentinels were posted to turn back any preacher coming to hold meetings. But the sleigh bearing the messengers of heaven slipped quietly passed the guards. Ellen was again reminded of the promise that an angel would go with her, and she thanked God that the angel had closed the eyes of these sentinels.
The last meetings they held were happy ones. The troublemakers had been subdued, and the meek followers of Jesus thanked Ellen Harmon and the Jordans for coming so far to help them and their young preacher bring proper order into their meetings. At the last meeting in Orrington, Ellen was informed in a short vision that her work there was finished and that she must return to Portland at once. Otherwise she would be in danger. Two spies had been seen peeking through the windows, but as the windows were high and the worshipers were kneeling in prayer, the men went away and reported that no one was in the house.
Early the next morning James White, Ellen, and the Jordans got into a rowboat with a friend of James’s and paddled down the river to Belfast. There Ellen and the Jordans boarded a steamer for home, while James and his friend rowed the boat back to Orrington. There they were told that the officers had been at the house where the preacher lived, searching for him. James and his friend were arrested, whipped and thrown into jail. But they were released when the officers learned that they were in no way responsible for the disturbances of which the people had complained.
James couldn’t help feeing anxious about Ellen. She was so young and so frail, and surrounded by many dangers! How much she needed someone to go with her and protect her! But it is not likely that the thought entered his mind that sometime he would be that lawful protector, for he had written that neither of them thought of marriage at that time.
Yet it does not seem strange that on a later day he asked her to be his life companion. He would be glad to share her trials and dangers. He felt they needed each other, that they could accomplish more for the Lord together than separately.
“And besides, Ellen I—I love you. I’ve been praying about this. “
Ellen respected and admire this handsome young man who was such an earnest Christian. But before giving her consent to marry him, she wanted to be sure it was God’s will. She answered, “James, I also will pray that the Lord may make His will known to us.”
And to her delight, as she prayed, she felt more and more that God did want them to work together. The answer did not come by vision. The Holy Spirit spoke quietly to her heart, just as he speaks to all of God’s children who pray sincerely for guidance in choosing a life companion.
Not until James and Ellen were certain that it was God’s will were they married.
Among the records of the White family is a small but precious document, the marriage certificate of James and Ellen White. No mention has ever been found of printed invitations, of presents, of bridesmaids, of corsages; nor of even a filmy white bridal gown, nor of a honeymoon. Evidently James and Ellen were too poor. Besides, important work awaited them. Every possible moment and every available penny must be put to work heralding the good news of Jesus’ coming.
James was happy, for he truly loved Ellen, and Ellen was happy, for she loved James, and they both loved God.
By Ella Robinson