Sunday, June 23, by invitation, I visited the prison, in Salem, Oregon, in company with Brother and Sister Carter, and Sister Jordan, who took me there in her carriage.
A Visit to the Prison
By Ellen G. White
Sunday, June 23, by invitation, I visited the prison, in Salem, Oregon, in company with Brother and Sister Carter, and Sister Jordan, who took me there in her carriage. The superintendent and warden of the prison were introduced to me. When the time arrived for service we were conducted to the chapel, a room made cheerful by an abundance of light, and pure fresh air. At a signal from a bell, two men opened the great iron gates by means of a lever, and the prisoners came flocking from their cells into the chapel. The doors were securely closed behind them, and for the first time in my life, I was immured in prison walls.
The Stories They Could Tell
I had anticipated seeing a set of repulsive looking men. In this I was disappointed; many of them seemed to be intelligent, and some appeared to be men of ability. They were dressed in the coarse, but neat striped prison uniform, their hair smooth, and boots brushed. As I looked upon the varied physiognomies before me, I thought: To each of these men has been committed peculiar gifts or talents for use, and not for abuse. All before me, from those who had occupied conspicuous and important positions in the world, and in the church, even those who had been most lowly and obscure have been entrusted with some talents, whether of wealth, station, influence, kindly sympathies or affections, they were given from the heavenly treasury, and were to have been used for the glory of God, and the benefit of the world.
The men before me had despised the gifts of heaven, and had abused, and misapplied them. Some of the convicts manifested a forced unnatural cheerfulness. But many, especially the older men, looked exceedingly sad and melancholy. Before me were youths of tender years, and the hardened, gray-haired sinner, all under the bondage of the law, because they had transgressed its statutes.
As I looked upon young men of eighteen to twenty and thirty years of age, I thought of their unhappy mothers, and of the grief and remorse which was their bitter portion. Had they done their duty by their children? Had they not indulged them in their own will and way, and neglected to teach them the statutes of God, and His claims upon them? Many of those mothers’ hearts had been broken by the ungodly course pursued by their children.
When all the company were assembled, Brother Carter read the hymn. All had books, and joined heartily in singing. One, who seemed to be an accomplished musician, played the organ. I then opened the meeting by prayer, and again all joined in singing. I spoke from the words of John: “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore, the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God: and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”
I exalted before them the infinite sacrifice that the Father made, in giving His beloved Son for fallen men, that they might through obedience be transformed, and become the acknowledged sons of God. The church and the world are called upon to behold and admire a love which thus expressed is beyond human comprehension, and even amazed the angels of heaven. This love was so deep, so broad, and so high, that it filled the holy angels with amazement, and language in which to describe it, failing the inspired apostle, he calls upon the church and the world to behold it—to make it the theme of contemplation, and of admiration. . . .
When the world was filled with iniquity God lifted up His standard against Satan by sending His Son to the world in the likeness of sinful flesh. Christ bridged the gulf that sin had made, which separated earth from heaven, and man from God. . . .
Hope for All
Jesus came from heaven to earth, assumed man’s nature, and was tempted in all points like as we are that he might know how to succor those who should be tempted. Christ’s life is for our example. He shows, in His willing obedience, how man may keep the law of God, and that transgression of the law, and not obedience of it, brings him into bondage. The Savior was full of compassion and love; He never spurned the truly penitent, however great their guilt; but He severely denounced hypocrisy of every sort, He is acquainted with the sins of men, He knows all their acts, and reads their secret motives; yet He does not turn away from them in their iniquity. He pleads and reasons with the sinner, and, in one sense—that of having Himself borne the weakness of humanity—He puts Himself on a level with him. “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though . . . red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” . . .
But the influence of a gospel hope will not lead the sinner to look upon the salvation of Christ as a matter of free grace, while he continues to live in transgression of the law of God. When the light of truth dawns upon his mind, and he fully understands the requirements of God, and realizes the extent of his transgressions, he will reform his ways, become loyal to God through the strength obtained from his Savior, and lead a new and purer life.
Those who overcome in the name of Jesus will stand about the great white throne, with crowns of immortal glory, waving the palm branches of victory. They will be sons of God, children of the heavenly King, their lives running parallel with the life of God. The joy of the Lord will be their joy, and no shadow will ever darken their heavenly home. Said Christ, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” While mercy lingers, I beseech you to make the most of the probationary time left you, in preparing for eternity, that life may not be an utter failure, and that in the time of solemn scrutiny you may be found with those who are accepted of God, and are called the sons of God.
This is taken from the article “Visit to the Prison,” published in Signs of the Times, August 1, 1878. Seventh-day Adventists believe that Ellen G. White (1827-1915) exercised the biblical gift of prophecy during more than 70 years of public ministry.