James White

     James White was born at Palmyra, Maine, August 4, 1821. He was a descendant of one of the Pilgrims who came over on the "Mayflower" in 1620. He was reared on a rocky Maine farm which reluctantly gave up its fruits to the hard-working farmer who tilled it in a successful attempt to make a living for himself, his wife, and nine children.  

     As a child James was sickly. When under three years of age he had what the doctors pronounced worm fever. This caused the lad to have fits and made him cross-eyed. He later said of that period that he was a "feeble, nervous, partially blind boy." As a result of this condition he did not receive the advantages of the common school. Not until he was sixteen years old, when his eyes became normal, could he so much as read a single verse in the Bible without resting his eyes. He grew rapidly, however, and by the time he was eighteen, was large for his age. Overgrown and behind in his classes, the young man was much embarrassed when he entered the academy the following year.    

     Of himself at that time Mr. White later said: "I could not then work a simple problem in single rule of three, and I could not tell a verb from an adverb or an adjective, and was deficient in the other common branches. My friends advised me to turn my attention to farming and not think of seeking for an education. But I could not take their advice."  

     We can see something of the low standards of education and the mettle of the youth when we know that after attending one term of twelve weeks, the youth was granted a certificate to teach the common branches the following winter. 

     Mr. White later mentioned that he had to study eighteen hours out of the twenty-four in order to do the work. The winter wrought a great change in his life, however. He had gained a victory in his experience. Heretofore he had felt a certain inferiority and actually  

     James regretted his existence. Now he felt his powers and hoped to develop into a real man who could make a contribution to the world.  

     At the age of nineteen he left home with his parents' blessing and a suit of clothes. His resolute efforts to gain an education were attended by hardship and difficulties from first to last. When he started to the academy, his parents gave him three dollars to pay his tuition for twelve weeks, and six days' rations of bread to take with him each Monday morning when he walked the five miles to the academy.  

     At the close of his first term of school teaching he walked forty miles to a sawmill and secured work. While employed there he cut his ankle severely. This kept him from work for a long time and permanently weakened his foot. During the remainder of his life he was unable to bear his weight on the left heel.  

     At the close of his summer's work, with thirty dollars and a scanty supply of old, worn clothing, he started to the academy at Reedfield, Maine. While others wore new clothing and enjoyed the customary conveniences of a boarding house, he lived the three months on raw apples and corn-meal mush which he cooked himself. At the close of this term of school his formal education came to a close. He had attended high school twenty-nine weeks in all, or a little less than one term, according to our present mode of reckoning.   The total cost of tuition, books, and board did not exceed fifty dollars. At the time he discontinued school he had reached the place where one year's work would prepare him for entrance to college. His thirst for information had merely been whetted by this schooling, and he determined to push ahead and secure a college education. During the winter of 1840 and 1841 he taught a large school and also gave penmanship lessons in two districts. That spring he returned home with the purpose of continuing his education. Soon his attention was called to the matter of the Second Coming of Christ. 

     At the age of fifteen, James White was baptized and joined the Christian Church, but at the age of twenty he had become engrossed in securing an education, and had so buried himself in it that lie loved the world more than Christ and was worshipping education instead of the God of heaven.  

     When he returned from his school, he found that a minister from Boston had been preaching the second advent, and that many in the neighborhood had accepted Christ and were enjoying a renewed consecration. Until this time he had regarded Millerism as rank fanaticism. He was surprised to hear his mother support it, and became interested in it himself when she answered his objections to the teaching.  

     He attended the meetings, became convicted of his back sliding condition, and renewed his consecration to God. He then felt a duty to visit the community where his school was located and do personal work for his pupils. He prayed to be excused, and receiving no relief, tried to work off his feelings by walking in the field. When no relief came, he rebelled against God, and stamping his foot on the ground, declared he would not go. He then packed up his belongings and departed to another academy. He secured a boarding place, bought his books, and enrolled in the school. He thought to drive away his convictions, but instead, he became confused and distressed in mind. He spent several hours over his books and then tried to call to mind what he had been studying, but was unable to do so. Finally resolving to resist the call of the Spirit of God no longer, he went directly from the door of the school room to the vicinity where he had taught the previous winter and where he was engaged to teach again the following term. Hardly had he started on his way when his mind was filled with a sense of God's approbation and he raised his hands and praised God with triumphant voice. It was a trial to go into that district where he was employed to teach the next winter and talk to the students and their parents about salvation. He faced the task, warned the people, and having accomplished his purpose, left.  

     During the summer he was unsettled as to what he should do. He wanted to attend school and become a scholar, and yet he felt the duty of proclaiming the Second Coming of Christ. His struggle was severe, indeed, but finally he made an appointment to preach. His first few sermons, he later testified, were not very successful. He was timid and lacking in confidence. On one occasion he was urged to speak in the presence of two young ministers, but in twenty minutes sat down embarrassed and confused. He later charged his failure to lack of resignation and humility. When he finally gave up the struggle for self, and consecrated his life wholly to God, he found peace of mind and freedom of expression.  

     Soon after this Mr. White heard Joshua V. Himes and Appollos Hale speak on the advent, and he began more definitely to study and prepare to preach the advent message. He bought publications, studied them, and began in earnest to get ready to teach others the message of the hour.  

     He preached a few times that summer, and in September attended a meeting held in "the great tent" in eastern Maine by Himes, Miller, and others. Upon returning from the great camp meeting, he spent several weeks studying the advent literature. He had purchased a chart, and with this before him, and the Bible and other books at hand, he made himself familiar with the message. In October of the same year (1842) he attended a large Adventist camp meeting held at Exeter, Maine. He was profoundly impressed by the numerous tents, the clear and powerful preaching, and the advent melodies which possessed a power that he had never before witnessed in sacred music. He returned home with such enthusiasm for the message that he determined immediately to go out and proclaim it. He prepared three lectures and made provision to give them to the people.    

     He had neither money, horse, nor saddle. He had used up the earnings of the past winter attending camp meetings, buying literature, and securing some needed clothing. Friends provided, however. His father offered him the use of a horse for the winter, while the minister gave him a dilapidated saddle with the pads torn off, and several pieces of bridle. He placed the saddle on a log and nailed on the pads. Likewise with malleable nails he fastened the pieces of bridle together, gathered up the few pieces of advent literature, folded up the chart, and fortified with these, left his father's house on horseback. He began in the neighboring towns. At first he gave only three lectures, but with experience he added a lecture at a place until he had a series of six worked out. 

     He substituted a week for a school teacher friend of his and lectured each evening. At the close of this time sixty arose for prayers. He was astounded and was unprepared for such a situation, for he had now used up all his information, indeed had stretched it a point and had given seven lectures. With a large number of penitents on his hands he was at the end of his resources. In his predicament he sent for his brother who had been in the ministry five years. The latter raised up a large church on the interest thus begun. Shortly afterward he received an invitation to preach in a vicinity about one hundred miles away, where the advent message had never been proclaimed.  

     In January, 1843, in the midst of a cold Maine winter, he left on horseback, thinly clad and with no money, for his self-appointed field among strangers over one hundred miles away. On one occasion a large mob, incited by nonbelievers, gathered around the meeting house and took out the windows. When the youthful minister began to pray, a snowball whistled through the window and spattered on the ceiling. This was the beginning of a fusillade of snowballs thrown at him. His Bible and clothes were wet with the fragments of a hundred snowballs which broke on the ceiling and showered over him and the Bible.  Closing his Bible, he began to picture the terrors of the day of God. He was inspired to give such a sermon as he had never been able to give before. Soon under the spell of his eloquence, the rowdy crowd became quiet. As he talked, he drew a spike nail out of his pocket which had been hurled and had hit him on the forehead the night before. Holding up the spike, he said:  

     "Some poor sinner cast this spike at me last evening. God pity him. The worst wish I have for him is, that he is at this moment as happy as I am. Why should I resent this insult when my Master had them driven through His hands?"  

     At that moment he raised his arms and placed his hands upon the wall behind him in the position of Christ on the cross. With tears streaming down his cheeks, the youthful minister called on sinners to repent. The effect was powerful. More than a hundred were in tears, and nearly that many rose for prayers.  

     Closing the meeting, the young man started out through the subdued crowd. Some one locked arms with him and guided and assisted him through the throng. He did not know this person, and yet he seemed strangely familiar. When Mr. White got through the crowd, he missed his companion and never found out the identity of this heaven-sent protector. His lectures continued in that place three or four evenings without the least opposition, and resulted in a general revival.  

     Journeying to his field, he found a Freewill Baptist quarterly meeting in session, and after lecturing there, was invited to preach at the various churches represented in the meeting. It was the middle of February, and it was thought that not more than six weeks of firm sleighing remained to give the people a good chance to attend the meetings. Hence only twelve of the most important places were selected for his labor in the six weeks. He was to give ten lectures at an appointment. This called for him to speak twenty times a week and, allowed him only half a day a week to travel fifteen or twenty miles to the next place agreed upon.  

     In one instance the young minister, having held a forenoon and an afternoon meeting, left the place just at setting of sun for another meeting to be held sixteen miles away that evening. He had labored excessively and was so hoarse that he could scarcely speak above a whisper. His clothes were wet with perspiration, and he should have stopped to rest, but the next appointment must be met. Hastily bidding farewell to his new-found friends, he mounted his waiting horse and rode into the stinging February evening. He was chilled to the bone, but he dared not stop and warm himself, though his damp clothes were nearly freezing. Finally he arrived at his destination, just as the minister was raising his hands to dismiss the congregation which had already waited an hour. Giving his horse to a friend at the door, he attempted to address the people. At first his chattering teeth cut off the words, but soon he warmed up and spoke with freedom.  

     In the meantime the one who took the horse had neglected to care for him, and the poor animal, reeking with sweat, was tied to the fence without blanket or protection. As a result of an hour and a half of this exposure in the cold wind, the beast had a case of chest founder the next morning.

1938 END, FOME 155-165