The Blessed Hope
In 1852 James White bought a new Washington hand press, the first to be owned by Sabbath-keeping Adventists. Things were looking up for the small group of young people who moved into the large house on Mt. Hope Avenue in Rochester, New York. They were an enthusiastic bunch, dedicated to sharing the Bible truths they believed in and determined that one way to do it would be through the printed page.
However, it was not long before it seemed as if Satan was determined to completely wipe them all out. On May 6th, 1853, James White's brother, Nathaniel White [1831-1853], died of tuberculosis at the age of 22. His fellow believer, Annie Smith [1828-1855], composed a five stanza poem that was published with his obituary. The last verse read:
Not long will earth's bosom,
His precious form bide,
And death's gloomy portals,
From kindred divide;
For swiftly approaching,
We see the bright day
That brings the glad summons
Arise! Come away!
A cholera epidemic swept through Rochester. Coffins were piled high on street corners waiting to be taken to the cemetery. Young Edson White [1849-1929], son of James and Ellen White, came down the disease, but was healed in answer to prayer. Luman Masten [1829-1854], the young foreman who was not even a Sabbath-keeper at the time, also became ill. Through answered prayer, he too was healed and afterward accepted the Sabbath. But, unfortunately, before long he became sick again, and on March 1, 1854, he died at the age of 25.
Again, Annie Smith wrote a poem in his memory. It contained three stanzas, the second of which read,
O blessed the hope for the Christian to cheer him,
When dim grew his eye, and fast faded his bloom;
In the hour of affliction the Saviour was near him,
The rock of his strength, and his light to the tomb.
No more will he wake from his calm, peaceful slumber,
To the anguish of pain, or the blighting of care;
No more will he join the songs of our number,
Or mingle his voice at the alter of prayer.
Later that same year James White's sister, Anna White [1828-1854], died of tuberculosis. She served briefly as editor of The Youth’s Instructor as well as edited a hymnal for children during her last illness. She was in her 26 th year when she died on November 30, 1854. Annie Smith wrote a ten stanza poem of tribute to Anna. Two of the stanzas read,
Sleep, dear Sister, kind and tender,
To friendship true,
While with feeling hearts we render
This tribute due.
When the morn of glory, breaking,
Shall light the tomb,
Beautiful will be thy waking,
In fadeless bloom.
It was at about the time of Anna's death that Annie Smith herself contracted tuberculosis. With no then-known cure for the disease, she too was “marked for the grave.” Hopeful that she could regain her health, Annie left the stress of assisting James White in editing The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald and returned to her mother's home in West Wilton, New Hampshire. But it was not to be. Annie herself died on July 26, 1855, at the age of 27.
Two days before her death she wrote her last poem. It contained two verses.
Oh! shed not a tear o'er the spot where I sleep;
For the living and not for the dead ye may weep;
Why mourn for the weary to who sweetly repose,
Free in the grave from life’s burden of woes?
I long now to rest in the lone, quiet tomb;
For the footsteps of Jesus have lightened its gloom.
I die in the hope of soon meeting again
The friends that I love, with Him ever to reign.
Years later, Annie's younger brother, Elder Uriah Smith [1832-1903], longtime editor of The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, wrote in a letter of condolence the following from his own personal experience,
When the halo of hope lingers over the graves of our loved ones, it tends to disperse the gloom and give us comfort as nothing else could do. . . . We are in the land of the dying, but if faithful in God's service will soon be in the land of the living.”
He signed it, “Yours in the blessed hope, Uriah Smith.” (Durand, p. 35)