James and Ellen White were still newlyweds when one day James suggested a trip. He thought they should travel to see some longtime friends in Topsham, Maine. Happily Ellen agreed. Early the next Friday, with the family horse hitched to the sleigh, they set out gliding cheerily on their way. It was important to them to get an early start, as they wanted to arrive in plenty of time before the hours of the Sabbath began that evening. They understood how special, how holy and how important the Sabbath is to Jesus, their best friend.
Sabbath morning, and being well rested after their travel, they journeyed to the Curtiss home for a Bible study. Upon arrival they were pleasantly surprised to find among those gathered, an old friend, a retired sea captain by the name of Joseph Bates.
Captain Bates had heard Ellen relate her visions before, but he was not entirely convinced that the visions were from God. You see, at that time there were other people claiming to have visions and communications with angels. These other visions were very different from the ones Ellen had. Not only that, but they did not agree with what the Bible taught. However, because of these false claims, people were very wary of those claiming to have visions. In fact, some preachers even told their church members that God no longer spoke to His people through visions like He did with Abraham, Daniel, Joseph, Isaiah and others.
But there were some dedicated Bible students who believed that God was still speaking to His people by visions. After all, the Bible, speaking of the last days, says, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams.” Acts 2:17. Besides, they were sure that when so much error was being taught, the Lord would not leave His people without messages from heaven to warn and guide His faithful followers.
Captain Bates was an honest man who was sincerely seeking the truth. And that day, God had a special gift in store for him. As the group was studying and praying, the Lord gave Ellen a vision. Captain Bates studied her intensely. He felt that here was his opportunity to find out the truth about these visions. As she moved about the room while in vision, a bright smile was on her face, and then, to his surprise and astonishment he heard her speaking. Now that isn’t so strange, is it? But the startling thing was not that she was speaking but that while she spoke she did not breathe! Think of it, speaking without breathing!
Softly, and with music in her voice, she was describing what she saw—a vision of the heavens.
“I see four moons,” she said. Then she went on to describe different planets including one with beautiful colored rings around it.
“She’s looking at Jupiter!” exclaimed Captain Bates who, being a sea captain, was very familiar with the heavens, as back in those days, before all of the satellite instruments we have today, ship’s captains depended heavily on the stars when charting their courses.
Ellen continued speaking. “That’s Saturn she’s describing!” he proclaimed excitedly. And still later, “Now she’s viewing Uranus!” Though Ellen had not named any particular planet, Captain Bates knew by her descriptions exactly which ones she was describing.
A little later she began describing “the opening heavens,” an entrance into a heavenly region beyond, glorious with light. Captain Bates was very excited. He jumped up, eyes dancing. “How I wish Lord William Rosse was here!” Lord William Rosse was a very famous English astronomer. Captain Bates continued, “I wish he could hear that woman talk astronomy, and hear her description of the ‘opening heavens.’ It’s ahead of anything I ever read on the subject.”
Now you may think there is nothing unusual about Ellen being able to describe the planets and the heavens. After all, many people have studied and know much about the heavens today. But, as always, the Lord had planned this and arranged things long before they happened. Some time before this meeting, Captain Bates had visited with Ellen, trying to discuss astronomy with her. He found her totally unfamiliar with the topic. In fact, she confessed that she had never opened a book on astronomy in her life. (Remember, she barely had a third grade education.)
So that day, when he listened and watched her in vision as she accurately described so much in the heavens, Captain Bates knew that the knowledge was directly from the Lord. He was thoroughly convinced. He knew that the Lord had given Ellen White this special vision in his presence so that he would know without a doubt that the Lord was with Ellen, and that it was the Lord giving her the visions.
Today, let us remember that the Lord will always lead and guide His faithful, honest-seeking ones. We may not always know how, when or where, but if we obey all the light we already have, He is sure to give us more in His time and in His way.