Ellen G. White: The Lonely Years: 1876-1891 (vol. 3)


Work Pursued on the Great Controversy

For five months work on the manuscript for Spirit of Prophecy, volume 4, The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan, had been laid aside. Now back at home one determination motivated her—the completion of the manuscript and the publication of the book. She had made a small beginning five years before, while with her husband in northern Texas. Again and again, as she was able, she picked up the task, only to have to leave it for something that at the moment was more pressing. In mid-March, 1883, she expressed the hope to have the completed manuscript ready in “four weeks” (Letter 9, 1883). It was still unready when she left for the East in August. Now the new year had come, and she had every expectation of completing the work before she had another serious break in her program. She wrote to Sara McEnterfer on February 14: 3BIO 241.4

I am writing every day. Mean to get my book finished next month, and can scarcely write a letter, I am so intent on this matter.—Letter 37, 1884. 3BIO 241.5

And intent she was. Five days later, in a letter to Uriah Smith and his wife, Harriet, she disclosed her feelings as she wrote the closing chapters: 3BIO 241.6

We have, Sister Harriet, everything to be thankful for, that Jesus is our advocate and that He pleads in our behalf. As I write upon my book I feel intensely moved. I want to get it out as soon as possible, for our people need it so much. I shall complete it next month if the Lord gives me health as He has done. I have been unable to sleep nights, thinking of the important things to take place. Three hours’ sleep, and sometimes five, is the most I get. My mind is stirred so deeply I cannot rest. Write, write, write, I feel that I must, and not delay. 3BIO 242.1

Great things are before us, and we want to call the people from their indifference, to get ready for that day. Things that are eternal crowd upon my vision day and night. The things that are temporal fade from my sight.—Letter 11a, 1884. 3BIO 242.2

Five weeks later, although most of the manuscript was in the hands of the Pacific Press, she was still hard at work on the finishing touches (The Signs of the Times, March 27, 1884). 3BIO 242.3

She wrote to Willie in Oakland: 3BIO 242.4

I see by appointments that there are only three weeks left for me to close up my book. Dr. [E. J.] Waggoner [assistant editor of the Signs] is fearful I will not get through, but I mean to by that time, if possible.... 3BIO 242.5

P.S. Bring me another good fountain pen.—Letter 44, 1884. 3BIO 242.6

Waggoner was more right than she. She had to lay aside her pen and meet three camp meeting appointments in the West, to which she was committed. Then she was back writing again. 3BIO 242.7

On March 23, Joseph Waggoner, editor of Signs of the Times, got an advance look at one of the chapters, “Origin of Evil.” In a note to the readers of the Signs he commented: 3BIO 242.8

We have no fear but that deep interest will be taken in this book, judging from what we have read. We long for its appearing; and so would thousands of our readers if they knew its value. We do not wish to institute comparisons, but we can assure our friends that this volume will not fall below the very best of the writings of Sister White that are already published.—March 27, 1884. 3BIO 242.9

In reporting to readers of the Review and Herald, W. C. White explained in a statement published in April: 3BIO 243.1

Most of the chapters are now written, but a few subjects are not yet completed. The work of writing the latter part of this volume has been accomplished slowly and with great difficulty. The scenes and events to be described were of such solemn importance, and the subjects pressed so constantly on the mind of the author, that she has frequently worked beyond her strength.... The manuscript is now so nearly completed that we can speak confidently of the contents of this volume. 3BIO 243.2

He described its leading features: 3BIO 243.3

It begins with the destruction of Jerusalem, and gives brief sketches of the experience of the Christian church to the close of the great controversy between righteousness and sin. Several chapters are especially devoted to an exposure of the great deceptions by which the archrebel has led the world captive, and to a vivid portrayal of his subtlety in introducing these heresies one by one into the church....

For a wide range of subjects and the presentation of facts of general interest, this work surpasses all her former volumes.—The Review and Herald, April 8, 1884. 3BIO 243.4

White explained that this volume was to be sold by subscription, that is, some appointed person with a prospectus would call on each church member to solicit his order. The plan was to reach all Adventists in six months. The book would be available in two bindings, one, olive in color, carrying the title The Great Controversy, the other in black cloth titled Spirit of Prophecy, volume 4. The price—$1 each. 3BIO 243.5