The Publishing Ministry


Section 1—Early History of the Publishing Work

Chapter 1—Dorchester Vision of 1848 and Our First Publishing Ventures

The Dorchester Vision of 1848 [Following their return from Western New York in September, 1848, Elder and Mrs. White journeyed to Maine, where they held a meeting with the believers, October 20-22. This was the Topsham conference, where the brethren began praying that a way might be opened for publishing the truths connected with the Advent message. A month later they were with “a small company of brethren and sisters,” writes Joseph Bates in his pamphlet on “The Sealing Message,” “assembled in meeting in Dorchester, near Boston, Mass.” “Before the meeting commenced,” he continues, “some of us were examining some of the points in the sealing message; some difference of opinion existed about the correctness of the view of the word ‘ascending’ [see Revelation 7:2], etc.” PM 15.1

Elder James White, in ... giving his account of this meeting, writes: “We all felt like uniting to ask wisdom from God on the points in dispute; also Brother Bates's duty in writing. We had an exceedingly powerful meeting. Ellen was again taken off in vision. She then began to describe the Sabbath light, which was the sealing truth. Said she: ‘It arose from the rising of the sun. It arose back there in weakness, but light after light has shone upon it until the Sabbath truth is clear, weighty, and mighty. Like the sun when it first rises, its rays are cold, but as it comes up, its rays are warming and powerful; so the light and power has increased more and more until its rays are powerful, sanctifying the soul; but, unlike the sun, it will never set. The Sabbath light will be at its brightest when the saints are immortal; it will rise higher and higher until immortality comes.’ PM 15.2

“She saw many interesting things about this glorious sealing Sabbath, which I have not time or space to record. She told Brother Bates to write the things he had seen and heard, and the blessing of God would attend it.” PM 15.3

It was after this vision that Mrs. White informed her husband of his duty to publish, and that as he should advance by faith, success would attend his efforts.—Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, 116, footnote. PM 15.4

Regarding this vision of November 18, 1848, Elder Joseph Bates testified that he saw and heard the following from the lips of Ellen Harmon: PM 15.5

“‘Yea, publish the things thou hast seen and heard, and the blessing of God will attend. Look ye! That rising is in strength, and grows brighter and brighter!’ ... The above was copied word for word as she spake in vision, therefore it's unadulterated.”—A Seal of the Living God (seventy-two-page pamphlet published by Joseph Bates in 1849), p. 26.]—At a meeting held in Dorchester, Mass., November, 1848, I had been given a view of the proclamation of the sealing message, and of the duty of the brethren to publish the light that was shining upon our pathway. PM 15.6

After coming out of vision, I said to my husband; I have a message for you. You must begin to print a little paper and send it out to the people. Let it be small at first; but as the people read, they will send you means with which to print, and it will be a success from the first. From this small beginning it was shown to me to be like streams of light that went clear round the world.” PM 16.1

While we were in Connecticut in the summer of 1849, my husband was deeply impressed that the time had come for him to write and publish the present truth. He was greatly encouraged and blessed as he decided to do this. But again he would be in doubt and perplexity, as he was penniless. There were those who had means, but they chose to keep it. He at length gave up in discouragement, and decided to look for a field of grass to mow. PM 16.2

As he left the house, a burden was rolled upon me, and I fainted. Prayer was offered for me, and I was blessed, and taken off in vision. I saw that the Lord had blessed and strengthened my husband to labor in the field one year before; that he had made a right disposition of the means he there earned; and that he would have a hundredfold in this life, and, if faithful, a rich reward in the kingdom of God; but that the Lord would not now give him strength to labor in the field, for He had another work for him to do, and that if he ventured into the field, he would be cut down by sickness; but that he must write, write, write, and walk out by faith. He immediately began to write, and when he came to some difficult passage, we would unite in prayer to God for an understanding of the true meaning of His word. PM 16.3

The Present Truth—One day in July, my husband brought home from Middletown a thousand copies of the first number of his paper. Several times, while the matter was being set, he had walked to Middletown, eight miles, and back, but this day he had borrowed Brother Belden's [The Whites were living at this time in several rooms on the second floor of Albert Belden's home in Rocky Hill. In a letter to Stephen Belden, son of Albert, Ellen White later recalled: “I remember that my husband wrote his editorials while sitting in a splint-bottomed chair.... When the papers came from the press, they were folded on a table in a room in Colonel Chamberlain's house. Then we put them on the floor, and bowed before God in prayer, asking His special blessing upon them.”—Letter 293, 1904.] horse and buggy with which to bring home the papers. PM 16.4

The precious printed sheets were brought into the house and laid upon the floor, and then a little group of interested ones were gathered in, and we knelt around the papers, and with humble hearts and many tears besought the Lord to let His blessing rest upon these printed messengers of truth. PM 17.1

When we had folded the papers, and my husband had wrapped and addressed copies to all those who he thought would read them, he put them into a carpetbag, and carried them on foot to the Middletown post office. PM 17.2

During July, August, and September, four numbers of the paper were printed at Middletown. Each number contained eight pages. Always before the papers were mailed, they were spread before the Lord, and earnest prayers, mingled with tears, were offered to God that His blessing would attend the silent messengers. Soon after the sending out of the first number, we received letters bringing means with which to continue publishing the paper, and also the good news of many souls embracing the truth. PM 17.3

With the beginning of this work of publishing, we did not cease our labors in preaching the truth, but traveled from place to place, proclaiming the doctrines which had brought so great light and joy to us, encouraging the believers, correcting errors, and setting things in order in the church. In order to carry forward the publishing enterprise, and at the same time continue our labors in different parts of the field, the paper was from time to time moved to different places.... PM 17.4

Printing in Oswego, New York—During the months of October and November, while we were traveling, the paper had been suspended; but my husband still felt a burden upon him to write and publish. We rented a house in Oswego, borrowed furniture from our brethren, and began housekeeping. There my husband wrote, published, and preached. [Nos. 5 and 6 of Present Truth were issued from Oswego, N. Y., in December, 1849; Nos. 7 to 10, from the same place, in March to May, 1850. Some tracts also were issued during that time.] PM 17.5

It was necessary for him to keep the armor on every moment, for he often had to contend with professed Adventists who were advocating error. Some set a definite time for the coming of Christ. We took the position that the time they set would pass by. Then they sought to prejudice all against us and what we taught. I was shown that those who were honestly deceived would some day see the deception into which they had fallen, and would be led to search for truth.—Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, 125-128. PM 18.1

Publishing in Face of Difficulties—From Oswego we went to Centerport, in company with Brother and Sister Edson, and made our home at Brother Harris’, where we published a monthly magazine called the Advent Review. [The Advent Review, printed in Auburn, N. Y., during the summer of 1850, should not be confused with the Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, the first number of which was issued in Paris, Maine, November, 1850. The Advent Review was issued between nos. 10 and 11 of Present Truth. Concerning its purpose, Elder James White wrote in his first page introduction to the 48-page pamphlet edition of the Advent Review:

“Our design in this review is to cheer and refresh the true believer, by showing the fulfillment of prophecy in the past wonderful work of God, in calling out, and separating from the world and nominal church, a people who are looking for the second advent of our dear Saviour.”] PM 18.2

My child grew worse, and three times a day we had seasons of prayer for him. Sometimes he would be blessed, and the progress of disease would be stayed; then our faith would be severely tried as his symptoms became alarming. PM 18.3

I was greatly depressed in spirit. Such queries as this troubled me: Why was God not willing to hear our prayers and raise the child to health? Satan, ever ready with his temptations, suggested that it was because we were not right. I could think of no particular thing wherein I had grieved the Lord, yet a crushing weight seemed to be on my spirits, driving me to despair. I doubted my acceptance with God, and could not pray. I had not courage so much as to lift my eyes to heaven. I suffered intense anguish of mind until my husband besought the Lord in my behalf. He would not yield until my voice was united with his for deliverance. The blessing came, and I began to hope. My trembling faith grasped the promises of God. PM 18.4

Then Satan came in another form. My husband was taken very sick. His symptoms were alarming. He cramped at intervals, and suffered excruciating pain. His feet and limbs were cold. I rubbed them until I had no strength to do so longer. Brother Harris was away some miles at his work. Sisters Harris and Bonfoey and my sister Sarah were the only ones present; and I was just gathering courage to dare believe in the promises of God. If ever I felt my weakness it was then. We knew that something must be done immediately. Every moment my husband's case was growing more critical. It was clearly a case of cholera. He asked us to pray, and we dared not refuse. In great weakness we bowed before the Lord. With a deep sense of my unworthiness, I laid my hands upon his head, and asked the Lord to reveal His power. A change came immediately. The natural color of his face returned, and the light of heaven beamed upon his countenance. We were all filled with gratitude unspeakable. Never had we witnessed a more remarkable answer to prayer. PM 19.1

That day we were to go to Port Byron to read the proof sheets of the paper that was being printed at Auburn. It appeared to us that Satan was trying to hinder the publication of the truth which we were laboring to place before the people. We felt that we must walk out upon faith. My husband said he would go to Port Byron for the proof sheets. We helped him harness the horse, and I accompanied him. The Lord strengthened him on the way. He received his proof, and a note stating that the paper would be off the press the next day, and we must be at Auburn to receive it. PM 19.2

That night we were awakened by the screams of our little Edson, who slept in the room above us. It was about midnight. Our little boy would cling to Sister Bonfoey, then with both hands fight the air, and then in terror he would cry, “No, no!” and cling closer to us. We knew this was Satan's effort to annoy us, and we knelt in prayer. My husband rebuked the evil spirit in the name of the Lord, and Edson quietly fell asleep in Sister Bonfoey's arms, and rested well through the night. PM 19.3

Then my husband was again attacked. He was in much pain. I knelt at the bedside and prayed the Lord to strengthen our faith. I knew God had wrought for him, and rebuked the disease; and we would not ask Him to do what had already been done. But we prayed that the Lord would carry on His work. We repeated these words: “Thou hast heard prayer. Thou hast wrought. We believe without a doubt. Carry on the work Thou hast begun!” Thus for two hours we pleaded before the Lord; and while we were praying, my husband fell asleep, and rested well till daylight. When he arose he was very weak, but we would not look at appearances. PM 20.1

We trusted the promise of God, and determined to walk out by faith. We were expected at Auburn that day to receive the first number of the paper. We believed that Satan was trying to hinder us, and my husband decided to go, trusting in the Lord. Brother Harris made ready the carriage, and Sister Bonfoey accompanied us. My husband had to be helped into the wagon, yet every mile we rode he gained strength. We kept our minds stayed upon God, and our faith in constant exercise, as we rode on, peaceful and happy. PM 20.2

When we received the paper all finished, and rode back to Centerport, we felt sure that we were in the path of duty. The blessing of God rested upon us. We had been greatly buffeted by Satan, but through Christ strengthening us we had come off victorious. We had a large bundle of papers with us, containing precious truth for the people of God. PM 20.3

Our child was recovering, and Satan was not again permitted to afflict him. We worked early and late, sometimes not allowing ourselves time to sit at the table to eat our meals. With a piece by our side we would eat and work at the same time. By overtaxing my strength in folding large sheets, I brought on a severe pain in my shoulder, which did not leave me for years. PM 20.4

We had been anticipating a journey east, and our child was again well enough to travel. We took the packet for Utica, and there we parted with Sister Bonfoey and my sister Sarah and our child, and went on our way to the East, while Brother Abbey took them home with him. We had to make some sacrifice in order to separate from those who were bound to us by tender ties; especially did our hearts cling to little Edson, whose life had been so much in danger. We then journeyed to Vermont and held a conference at Sutton. PM 21.1

The Review and Herald—In November, 1850, the paper was issued at Paris, Maine. Here it was enlarged, and its name changed to that which it now bears, the Advent Review and Sabbath Herald. We boarded in Brother A.’s family. We were willing to live cheaply, that the paper might be sustained. The friends of the cause were few in number and poor in worldly wealth, and we were still compelled to struggle with poverty and great discouragement. We had much care, and often sat up as late as midnight, and sometimes until two or three in the morning, to read proof sheets. PM 21.2

Excessive labor, care, and anxiety, a lack of proper and nourishing food, and exposure to cold in our long winter journeys, were too much for my husband, and he sank under the burden. He became so weak that he could scarcely walk to the printing office. Our faith was tried to the utmost. We had willingly endured privation, toil, and suffering, yet our motives were misinterpreted, and we were regarded with distrust and jealousy. Few of those for whose good we had suffered, seemed to appreciate our efforts. PM 21.3

We were too much troubled to sleep or rest. The hours in which we should have been refreshed with sleep, were often spent in answering long communications occasioned by envy. Many hours, while others were sleeping, we spent in agonizing tears, and mourning before the Lord. At length my husband said: “Wife, it is of no use to try to struggle on any longer. These things are crushing me, and will soon carry me to the grave. I cannot go any farther. I have written a note for the paper, stating that I shall publish no more.” As he stepped out of the door to carry the note to the printing office, I fainted. He came back and prayed for me. His prayer was answered, and I was relieved. PM 21.4

The next morning, while at family prayer, I was taken off in vision and was instructed concerning these matters. I saw that my husband must not give up the paper, for Satan was trying to drive him to take just such a step, and was working through agents to do this. I was shown that we must continue to publish, and the Lord would sustain us. PM 22.1

We soon received urgent invitations to hold conferences in different States, and decided to attend general gatherings at Boston, Mass.; Rocky Hill, Conn.; Camden and West Milton, N. Y. These were all meetings of labor, but very profitable to our scattered brethren. PM 22.2

At Saratoga Springs, New York—We tarried at Ballston Spa a number of weeks, until we became settled in regard to publishing at Saratoga Springs. Then we rented a house and sent for Brother and Sister Stephen Belden and Sister Bonfoey, who was then in Maine taking care of little Edson, and with borrowed household stuff began housekeeping. Here my husband published the second volume of the Advent Review and Sabbath Herald. PM 22.3

Sister Annie Smith, who now sleeps in Jesus, came to live with us and assist in the work. Her help was needed. My husband expressed his feelings at this time in a letter to Brother Howland, dated February 20, 1852, as follows: “We are unusually well, all but myself. I cannot long endure the labors of traveling and the care of publishing. Wednesday night we worked until two o'clock in the morning, folding and wrapping No. 12 of the Review and Herald; then I retired and coughed till daylight. Pray for me. The cause is prospering gloriously. Perhaps the Lord will not have need of me longer, and will let me rest in the grave. I hope to be free from the paper. I have stood by it in extreme adversity; and now when its friends are many, I feel free to leave it, if someone can be found who will take it. I hope my way will be made clear. May the Lord direct.” PM 22.4

Facing Adversity in Rochester [James White gave the following reasons why he felt the paper should no longer be printed at the commercial printing office in Saratoga Springs, New York: PM 23.1

“1. It is not convenient to print such a paper at a suitable printing-office, and have the work put by on the seventh day, and it is very unpleasant to us, as well as inconvenient, to have the work done on the Sabbath.

“2. If a small office was owned by the brethren, the paper could be printed in such an office for about three fourths of what others can afford to do it for us in large printing establishments.

“3. We think that hands can be obtained who are keeping the Sabbath who would take an interest in the paper that cannot be expected of others. In this case, much care would be taken from the one that had charge of it.”—The Review and Herald, March 2, 1852.]—In April, 1852, we moved to Rochester, N. Y., under most discouraging circumstances. At every step we were obliged to advance by faith. We were still crippled by poverty, and compelled to exercise the most rigid economy and self-denial. I will give a brief extract from a letter to Brother Howland's family, dated April 16, 1852:

“We are just getting settled in Rochester. We have rented an old house for one hundred and seventy-five dollars a year. We have the press [A Washington hand press was bought for $652.93. This was the first publishing enterprise owned and operated by Seventh-day Adventists.] in the house. Were it not for this, we should have to pay fifty dollars a year for office room. You would smile could you look in upon us and see our furniture. We have bought two old bedsteads for twenty-five cents each. My husband brought me home six old chairs, no two of them alike, for which he paid one dollar, and soon he presented me with four more old chairs without any seating, for which he paid sixty-two cents. The frames are strong, and I have been seating them with drilling. PM 23.2

“Butter is so high that we do not purchase it, neither can we afford potatoes. We use sauce in the place of butter, and turnips for potatoes. Our first meals were taken on a fireboard placed upon two empty flour barrels. We are willing to endure privations if the work of God can be advanced. We believe the Lord's hand was in our coming to this place. There is a large field for labor, and but few laborers. Last Sabbath our meeting was excellent. The Lord refreshed us with His presence.”.... PM 23.3

We toiled on in Rochester through much perplexity and discouragement. The cholera visited the city, and while it raged, all night long the carriages bearing the dead were heard rumbling through the streets to Mount Hope Cemetery.... PM 24.1

Pressing on into New England—We had appointments out for two months, reaching from Rochester, N. Y., to Bangor, Maine; and this journey we were to perform with our covered carriage and our good horse Charlie, given to us by Brethren in Vermont.... PM 24.2

We had before us a journey of about one hundred miles, to perform in two days, yet we believed that the Lord would work for us. [Little Edson White, afflicted with cholera and healed in answer to prayer, accompanied his parents on this trip. At first it seemed that the child would die from the rigors of the journey, but his strength returned and his mother wrote: “We brought him home quite rugged.”—Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, 145.].... PM 24.3

The Lord greatly blessed us on our journey to Vermont. My husband had much care and labor. At the different conferences he did most of the preaching, sold books, and labored to extend the circulation of the paper. When one conference was over, we would hasten to the next. At noon we would feed the horse by the roadside, and eat our lunch. Then my husband, laying his writing paper on the cover of our dinner box or on the top of his hat, would write articles for the Review and Instructor.—Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, 136-145. [The Youth's Instructor was published from 1852 until 1970, when it was succeeded by Insight.] PM 24.4

Publishing Responsibility Transferred to Church—When my husband became so feeble, before our removal from Rochester, [In 1855 the brethren in Michigan opened the way for the office of publication to be removed to Battle Creek. See Testimonies for the Church 1:97ff.] he desired to free himself from the responsibility of the publishing work. He proposed that the church take charge of the work, and that it be managed by a publishing committee whom they should appoint and that no one connected with the office derive any financial benefit therefrom beyond the wages received for his labor. PM 24.5

Though the matter was repeatedly urged upon their attention, our brethren took no action in regard to it until 1861. Up to this time my husband had been the legal proprietor of the publishing house, and sole manager of the work. He enjoyed the confidence of the active friends of the cause, who trusted to his care the means which they donated from time to time, as the growing cause demanded, to build up the publishing enterprise. But although the statement was frequently repeated, through the Review, that the publishing house was virtually the property of the church, yet as he was the only legal manager, our enemies took advantage of the situation, and under the cry of speculation did all in their power to injure him, and to retard the progress of the cause. Under these circumstances he introduced the matter of organization, which resulted in the incorporation of the Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association, according to the laws of Michigan, in the spring of 1861.—Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, 164. PM 25.1

“I Can Say, Praise God!”—The later history of my life would involve the history of many of the enterprises which have arisen among us, and with which my life work has been closely intermingled. For the upbuilding of these institutions, my husband and myself labored with pen and voice. To notice, even briefly, the experiences of these active and busy years, would far exceed the limits of this sketch. Satan's efforts to hinder the work and to destroy the workmen have not ceased; but God has had a care for His servants and for His work. PM 25.2

In reviewing our past history, having traveled over every step of advance to our present standing, I can say, Praise God! As I see what the Lord has wrought, I am filled with astonishment, and with confidence in Christ as leader. We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history.—Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, 196. PM 25.3