Ellen G. White: The Early Years: 1827-1862 (vol. 1)


The Little Paper Almost Died

A note from James White in this December issue of the Present Truth, published in Oswego, suggested the need of financial help. There was also a letter to Joseph Bates, emphasizing the point. These items triggered a crisis that almost killed the little paper. Here is the statement: 1BIO 171.2

At the present time I am destitute of means, and am some in debt. Dear brethren, I know that you are ready and anxious to sustain the cause of truth. Therefore, I state the above to inform you of the present condition of the paper as to means. I hope that all who may esteem it a privilege, and are able, will send in their donations immediately.—Ibid. 1BIO 171.3

During the past four years Joseph Bates, the older member of the pioneer group, highly esteemed and much loved by James and Ellen White, had written and published six helpful pamphlets of forty-eight to eighty pages each. He was convinced this, rather than a regular periodical, was the way to reach the people with the message. He wrote along this line to James White. Bates's letter led White to the depths of discouragement. On Thursday, January 3, he wrote to Leonard and Elvira Hastings: 1BIO 171.4

As for the poor little paper, it has so little sympathy, and (I fear) so few prayers that I think it will die. I am in deep trial. The poor scattered sheep who do not see God's servants face to face once a year beg for the paper, but those who are verily glutted with the truth seem to have little or no interest in it. I received a letter from Michigan today, and as I walked and read, I wept to see how they were refreshed with No. 5, and O, my God, what shall I do? I want to work for God, but to publish is an uphill work unless there are many prayers ascending, and an interest to sustain a paper. 1BIO 171.5

Just a week later he wrote to them again: 1BIO 171.6

I had been in a hot furnace for some time on account of the burden I felt for the little paper. In this time of trial Brother Bates wrote me a letter that threw me down as low as I ever was, and remained so until last evening.

Brother Bates discouraged me about the paper, and I gave it up forever, but still the burden grew heavier and heavier on me. These texts kept ringing, Let your light so shine, et cetera. No man lighteth a candle and putteth it under a bushel, or bed, et cetera. Ye are the light of the world, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. In this depressed, miserable state of mind I came here last night with Ellen and Brother Holt.—JW to L. Hastings, January 10, 1850. 1BIO 172.1

That evening Ellen was given a vision in regard to the Present Truth: 1BIO 172.2

I saw the paper, and that it was needed. That souls were hungry for the truth that must be written in the paper. I saw that if the paper stopped for want of means, and those hungry sheep died for want of the paper, it would not be James's fault, but it would be the fault of those to whom God lent His money to be faithful stewards over, and let it lie idle; and the blood of souls would be upon their garments. 1BIO 172.3

I saw that the paper should go; and if they let it die they would weep in anguish soon. I saw that God did not want James to stop yet; but he must write, write, write, write, and speed the message and let it go. I saw that it would go where God's servants cannot go.— Ibid. (see also Manuscript 2, 1850). 1BIO 172.4

Rather triumphantly James could now write: “My way now seems to be made plain, and I hope all my brethren will do their duty, and no more, nor less.” He declared: 1BIO 172.5

I do not doubt for a moment Brother Bates's good will and kindness toward us; still he does not see everything correctly at one glance. I shall write him this vision, which will, no doubt, make him see a little differently on some things.—Ibid. 1BIO 172.6

He added, “I hope to be humble and faithful in my work. I need all your advice and prayers.” The account of the vision did change Bates's mind. 1BIO 172.7

Concerning the home situation James wrote, “Ellen is well. She would write if she could, but has not time. She has some writing of her visions to do, and the babe is teething, and is troublesome.”—Ibid. 1BIO 173.1

James went on with his writing for the paper. They continued to reside in Oswego; numbers 7 and 8 were published in March, number 9 in April, and number 10 in May. While he kept the emphasis on the Sabbath, the little paper was now, through letters from the readers, becoming an organ of general communication and exchange among the growing group of believers. 1BIO 173.2