William Miller is preaching tonight,” said Ellen’s father one day, as he sat down to dinner, “and we must go to hear him. He is preaching a new and strange doctrine. He thinks that Jesus Himself will soon come to this earth. I want to know whether this is from the Bible.”
That night the Harmon family went to the meeting held by William Miller in the town of Portland, Maine. How stirred they were as the minister told them of the nearness of the coming of Jesus. Mr. Miller made the explanation from the prophecies so clear that although Ellen was only twelve years old even she could understand it.
This minister was a careful student of the Bible. He found that the prophecies in the book of Daniel concerning the different kingdoms had all come true. Then he came to a prophecy which said that at the end of a period of 2300 years the sanctuary would be cleansed.
“Can we tell when these years will begin and end?” he wondered. He found the answer in the book of Daniel, the ninth chapter. Here he found that this period began when the decree was given to restore and build Jerusalem. From history he learned that this decree was given 457 years before Christ.
The other prophecies in this same chapter concerning the work of Christ and His death, had been fulfilled in the exact year it was prophesied that they should be; so Mr. Miller was confident that the next event, the cleansing of the sanctuary, would take place at the end of the 2300 years. The end of the prophecy would come in 1843.
What was meant by the cleansing of the sanctuary? Bible students know now that the sanctuary here spoken of is in heaven, where Jesus pleads with His Father for the forgiveness of our sins. But at that time nearly all Christians believed that the earth was the sanctuary. Mr. Miller felt sure that the cleansing of the sanctuary meant the cleansing of the earth from sin at the coming of Jesus.
What a thrilling thought this was. Jesus was coming in 1843! He felt that he must tell others about it; so he left his home and went out to preach wherever he could find those who would listen to him. Now he had come to Portland, and was telling the people there why he believed that Jesus would come in only three more years.
Everyone in the city was talking of this great event. Many scoffed and laughed, but scores of others believed. Ellen [Harmon] went to these meetings, and when Mr. Miller asked those who wanted especially to seek God in prayer to come to the front of the hall, she went forward, with many others, and knelt, praying that her sins might be forgiven. Of course Jesus answered her prayer, but she did not feel that He had. She had not yet learned that we must trust Jesus to pardon our sins when we confess them and ask Him to forgive them. For the next few weeks she was troubled, for she was not sure that she was ready to meet Jesus.
The following summer the Harmon family went to the Methodist camp meeting. Ellen was glad to have this opportunity to hear more about Jesus. She went fully resolved to seek the Lord in earnest there, and to be prepared for His coming.
Soon after they reached the campground, she heard a sermon preached from the words of Queen Esther, “So will I go in unto the king, … and if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16). The sermon was especially for those who were longing to be saved yet were afraid they could not make themselves worthy of the love of God. The words of the minister helped Ellen to understand what she must do to be ready to meet her Saviour when He should come. She understood that she could not through her own strength make herself worthy, but that Jesus alone could cleanse from sin.
Soon after this, as she prayed, her heart was filled with happiness and she now felt that Jesus had forgiven her sins. She realized that Jesus was very near to His children, that they could go to Him with their troubles, and that He would take away all sadness, the same as He had blessed and healed those who came to Him when He was here on this earth.
One of the women spoke to her, “Dear child, have you found Jesus?” As Ellen turned to say Yes, the woman exclaimed, “Indeed you have. His peace is with you. I see it in your face.”
About this time Ellen passed by a tent on the campground and saw a little girl who seemed much distressed about something. She held in her arms a little parasol. Her face was pale as she tightly clung to her treasure. Several times she started to lay it down and then she held it closer to her again. After a few minutes the child cried, “Dear Jesus, I want to love You and go to heaven! Take away my sins! I give myself to You, parasol and all.” Then crying, she threw herself into her mother’s arms. “Mother,” she said, “I am so happy, for Jesus loves me, and I love Him better than my parasol or anything else.”
Her face was shining with happiness as she smiled at those about her. Then her mother, with tears in her eyes, explained that her little daughter had received the parasol as a present not long before. She loved it very much. She carried it with her everywhere, even taking it with her when she went to sleep at night. But during the meetings the little girl had heard that we must give all to Jesus. The little parasol was the dearest thing on earth to her, and so she had felt that she must give it to Jesus. What a struggle she had gone through before she was willing to give up her treasure! But now that it was over, and she had given all she had, her face was bright with her new joy.
Then it was explained to the little girl that since she had given up everything to her Savior, and allowed nothing to stand between her and her love for Him it was right for her to keep the parasol and use it.
As Ellen walked on across the campground she said to herself, “How hard it is to give up the parasol! Yet Jesus gave up heaven for our sake, and became poor, that we, through His poverty and suffering, might have heavenly riches.”
Shortly after her return from camp meeting, she asked to be baptized and taken into the Methodist Church, to which her parents belonged. The leaders in the church urged her to be sprinkled, but she felt that she wanted to be baptized as her Saviour had been, by immersion.
Although the day appointed for the baptism was a windy one, and the waves of the ocean dashed upon the shore, Ellen’s heart was happy—happy that she could take up her cross for her Master. Her peace was like a river. She was beginning a new life that was to be a life of service for her Saviour.
Although Ellen became a member of the church and attended the meetings regularly, including the prayer meeting, she had never prayed aloud in public. Now it became impressed upon her mind that she should seek God in prayer in the small prayer meetings. She was very timid, and felt that she could not do this, but whenever she knelt alone to pray, this duty came to her mind.
Then one night she had a dream. She dreamed that she was sitting, sadly thinking, with her face in her hands. “If Jesus were upon earth,” she thought to herself, “I would go to Him, throw myself at His feet, and tell Him all my sufferings. He would not turn from me; He would have mercy upon me, and I would love and serve Him always.”
While she was thinking, the door opened, and a beautiful person came in. He looked at her kindly and said, “Do you wish to see Jesus? He is here, and you can see Him if you desire. Take everything you possess, and follow me.”
She gathered up her little possessions and joyfully followed her guide. He led her to a steep, narrow stairway. As they began to climb the stairs, he warned her to keep looking upward, lest she become dizzy and fall. She saw others climbing the stairs also, who looked down and fell before they reached the top.
Finally Ellen and her guide reached the last step. They stood before a closed door. Her guide told her to leave everything she was carrying. She cheerfully laid her possessions down.
Then he opened the door and told her to go in. In a moment she stood before Jesus. As He looked upon her, she knew that He was acquainted with her and with all her thoughts.
She tried to shield herself from His gaze, but He drew near and laid His hand upon her head. “Fear not,” He said, as He smiled upon her. The sound of His sweet voice filled her heart with happiness. She was overcome with joy and sank to the floor at His feet.
Ellen felt, in her dream, that she had reached the peace of heaven. When at last she rose, the loving eyes of Jesus were upon her, and His beautiful smile filled her soul with gladness. She looked at Him with holy reverence and love.
Her guide opened that door and they went out. He told her to take up again the possessions she had laid down. Then he handed her a green cord tightly coiled. He told her to place it next to her heart, and when she wanted to see Jesus take the cord out and stretch it as far as she could. “Do not let it remain coiled very long at a time,” the angel said, “or it will become knotted and hard to straighten.”
Ellen placed the cord next to her heart and joyfully began her journey back down the narrow stairs. As she went she praised the Lord and told everyone she met where he could find Jesus.
When Ellen awakened she was happy. This dream gave her hope that she could go to God in prayer whenever she desired. To her, the green cord represented faith in God, and she understood how simple it was to trust in Him. She was sure now, that Jesus loved her.
“His Messenger” by Ruth Wheeler, 13–19.