The Signs of the Times


The Signs of the Times


During the last forty years of Ellen White's ministry, an article from her pen appeared in almost every issue of the Signs of The Times. As with the Review and Herald, they occupied a prominent place in the journal, and for many years were featured on the front page. There were approximately 2000 of these articles. Since the facsimile publication of the Ellen G. White Review and Herald articles, which have been warmly received, there has been a growing demand for the reproduction of the Signs of the Times articles in the same format. We now present these in this facsimile reprint. Doing so opens up still broader vistas to those delving into the Ellen G. White sources. ST, par. 1

In her instruction concerning the handling of her writings following her death, Mrs. White indicated that articles that had appeared in the journals of the church should be reprinted. In a limited way this has been accomplished by including choice excerpts that make a vital contribution in the compilations published since 1915. Modern methods of reproducing the printed page now available to us make practicable the republication of the Signs of the Times articles in full. ST, par. 2

The facsimile reproduction of periodical articles, while providing Spirit of Prophecy materials of great interest and incalculable value and service, faces limitations in distribution. These limitations from a financial standpoint frequently leave such projects in a marginal position. It is at this point that the Julius Schneider Memorial Medical Foundation stepped in with a gift toward initial expense which has ensured the carrying of this special venture to early and successful completion. ST, par. 3

No one has watched the development of plans for the republication of the Signs of the Times E.G. White articles more eagerly than Mrs. Meta Schneider of Atlanta, Georgia, and none will be more happy than she in having these articles reissued in facsimile form conveniently bound in four volumes. ST, par. 4

That which appears in these four books includes the E.G. White articles published from the inception of the journal in 1874 until shortly after Mrs. White's death in 1915. The Signs editors, in searching for E.G. White material for the journal, often drew materials from her current books or reprinted articles which had appeared in the Review and Herald or earlier issues of the Signs. This accounts for fully one-third of the 2000 articles. After the year 1906, Ellen White wrote little new material for the Signs. But articles continued to appear, drawn largely from other of her published sources. Early in the development of plans for the facsimile republication of these articles, it was decided to reprint only those not duplicated elsewhere in currently available publications. While all the articles are recognized in the Table of Contents, only the two-thirds representing new material have been reproduced in facsimile form. ST, par. 5

Historical Background

The message from the Lord called for the church to herald the message to all the world. James White believed this, and it led him to launch the Signs of the Times in the summer of 1874 as a religious newspaper published west of the Rocky Mountains. The Pacific Coast states in those days seemed far separated by plains and mountains from Battle Creek, Michigan, and the larger part of the continent. Communications were slowed by the long distances, and there seemed to be somewhat of an isolation not wholesome to the promising rapid development of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the West. As James White pondered, he was led to believe that a new journal published there would furnish a prompt and convenient medium of exchange and could also be a pioneer missionary paper. He was forthright in declaring his concept of the mission of the new journal. It was “to be not only an expositor of the prophecies, a report of the signs of our times, but also a family, religious and general newspaper for the household.” In the July 23, 1874, issue he wrote: “through The Signs of the Times we wish to erect thousands of pulpits more especially in the Pacific Coast states and territories, where we can appeal to the people weekly ... upon the exhaustless themes ... necessary to a fitness to receive the dear Saviour at His second advent.” ST, par. 6

The subscription price was $2 a year to those who chose to pay a subscription price and free to all others as far as the paper was sustained by the donations of liberal friends of the cause. ST, par. 7

James White began the publishing venture on the West Coast much as he had begun his first printing in 1849. Not owning his own press, he hired the printing done at a commercial press in Oakland. On June 4, 1874, the first issue of Signs of the Times appeared, and for several months it was published at somewhat irregular intervals. In October of that year, White appealed for funds to establish a more permanent publishing work. On April 1, 1875, the Pacific Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association was organized with J. N. Loughborough as president. Its printing plant, the Pacific Press, opened in Oakland later that year. James White was the first editor of the Signs, and his name appeared on the masthead until his death in 1881. ST, par. 8

Reaching new believers in the West and pressed for constructive articles to fill the columns from week to week, the Signs from the very first carried one or two articles from the pen of Ellen G. White in each issue. In volume 2 there began an extended Ellen G. White autobiographical series. This presents intimate details of her early life and experience today found nowhere else. ST, par. 9

With the editorial policy aimed at providing a journal for missionary use, Ellen White prepared her articles with a definite evangelistic appeal. This meant that they dealt more with doctrine, practical Christian experience, temperance, Bible characters, etc., giving us rich and unique sources in these areas. ST, par. 10

Spirit of Prophecy Series and Signs of the Times

The first decade of the publication of the journal parallels Ellen White's writing and publishing of the great controversy story in the four 400-page volumes of the Spirit of Prophecy series. It was soon discerned that much of what she wrote for these volumes was good article material for the Signs. In 1875 and 1876 she was writing the chapters on the life of Christ for Spirit of Prophecy, Volume II. The type was largely set in 1876, and the November 30 issue of the Signs for that year carried her article on “The Sabbath,” although not so indicated, this is chapter 15 of Spirit of Prophecy, Volume II. Quite a consistent pattern developed. Within twelve months the entire book except for two chapters came before the readers of the Signs of The Times. ST, par. 11

As she was unable to encompass the entire life of Christ in volume II of Spirit of Prophecy, she devoted a little better than one half of the next volume to this theme. This was followed by the experiences of the apostles. The combined accounts were published the next year as Spirit of Prophecy, Volume III. The Signs in like manner continued the articles on the life of Christ and the work of the apostles through 1878. The book was published at the Review and Herald office at Battle Creek, Michigan, while the chapters selected from it were appearing in the Signs of the Times in California. ST, par. 12

Elder and Mrs. White planned that the fourth volume of the Spirit of Prophecy series would follow quickly, with publication target date in the late 1870s. In this she would deal with the Christian church from the destruction of Jerusalem to the new earth. In February, 1878, she wrote of the decision to have it printed at the Pacific Press in Oakland and have the type set first for the Signs of the Times, but with a column width which would fit the printed book, thus making it possible to publish the book at the Pacific Press from the same type. As she wrote of this, she expressed her fear that in book form the information would not reach many of the Advent believers still observing the first day of the week, but she thought she could reach quite a few of them through the Signs. ST, par. 13

The illness of James White precluded her pressing through with this work, and in December she decided to turn to Spirit of Prophecy, Volume I, to continue to supply articles for the Signs. This would present Old Testament history with its lessons. While the materials published almost simultaneously in the Signs of the Times and the Spirit of Prophecy, Volumes II and III, appeared in the journal in identical wording with the books, when she turned back to Spirit of Prophecy, Volume I, issued in 1870, she recognized that it was written essentially for Seventh-day Adventists. So she edited the material somewhat to suit more appropriately the needs of the non-Adventist reader. These Old Testament history articles began to appear in the Signs of January 9, 1879, and at first they represented but little editorial change from the book chapters. They appeared under the general title of “The Great Controversy Between Christ and His Angels and Satan and His Angels,” with the first chapter on “The Fall of Satan.” ST, par. 14

Coming to the experience of Jacob, she began to expand greatly some of the chapters; and as she continued the Old Testament history, it is sometimes difficult to correlate these with the Spirit of Prophecy volume. In fact, these chapters, appearing intermittently in 1880, 1881, and 1882 seem to present an intermediate step between the 1870 book and Patriarchs and Prophets. ST, par. 15

After the death of James White, and while residing in California, Ellen White undertook in earnest the long-delayed work of preparing the chapters for the Spirit of Prophecy, Volume IV. Working ahead of the book, she placed in the Signs a series of articles on Luther and Reformation history. There were nineteen in all, appearing between May and October 1883. In these she presented this segment of Reformation history more fully than she could in chapters for the book, for a balance must be kept in the amount of space allotted to the period it covered. In 1885, after the publication of Spirit of Prophecy, Volume IV, there appeared in the Signs a number of the articles presenting other chapters in whole or in part, selected directly from the book. ST, par. 16

A Transition Period in E. G. White Writing

Thus the E. G. White Signs articles of the first decade (1874-1884) take us through a transition period brought about as Ellen White conceived that her writing could be for the world as well as for the church. It was during this period that the concept of Seventh-day Adventist literature being sold by colporteurs began to take shape, particularly in 1881. So in 1882 and 1883, as she projected in her mind Spirit of Prophecy, Volume IV, covering the time space we now find in the book The Great Controversy, she undertook the work, writing in a manner to catch the interest and win the confidence of Christians to whom the third angel's message was not known. ST, par. 17

Now with this background, it is appropriate to state that in these facsimile reprints, articles which represent a reproduction of the chapters from the Spirit of Prophecy without change have not been included. The books are currently available. In the case of articles taken from these books and edited for the Signs of the Times, and articles appearing first in the Signs of the Times and then edited for the book, these are included because they represent a variation from that which is commonly available. They constitute some interesting exhibits in the literary development of the E. G. White books. ST, par. 18

Pages Photographically Reproduced

Adding to the interest and giving the feeling of the times, the E. G. White articles appear in facsimile reproductions of the actual pages taken from the Signs of the Times. The exceptions to this are those articles appearing between 1874 and 1879 with a four-column page too large to fit into the scheme. Therefore the articles in the first 119 pages of volume 1 are reproductions from the original type pages of the original printings, the material being reconstituted to make three-column pages in place of the four-column pages as originally published. ST, par. 19

From time to time, as with the Review and Herald, through the years the overall size of the Signs of the Times has changed considerably. In these facsimile reproductions it was desirable to create a convenient uniform size page. This accounts for the slight reduction in page size of some of the materials and the slight enlargement of others. ST, par. 20

From page 120 on the facsimile reproductions call for the full pages of the Signs on which any portion of an E. G. White article appears. There are on these pages many incidental articles on a number of subjects by pioneer denominational writers. In many cases, these begin on pages reproduced and close on pages not included in these reprint volumes. This is inevitable in view of the plan of reproducing the materials. Neither the White Estate nor the Pacific Press Publishing Association is in a position to furnish the balance of such articles. Now please note a few details concerning the procedure which will be helpful in study and use: ST, par. 21

1. All regular E. G. White articles appearing in the Signs of the Times through the period of each of the four volumes of facsimile reprints are listed in the tables of contents appearing at the front of the respective volumes. This gives the student the overall picture of the Ellen G. White contribution to the journal. This listing indicates if the article is not included in these facsimile reprints because it appears in some other source generally available. ST, par. 22

2. If an article appeared in the Signs of the Times more than once, it has been included only once in these reproductions. Generally the article is taken from its first publication. There are some exceptions. ST, par. 23

3. Many E. G. White articles first appeared in the Review and Herald. Because the Review and Herald facsimile reprints are complete and are available to all who will hold these volumes, such material is not reproduced in this collection. Certain Review articles, edited under Ellen White's direction for the Signs, have been included. ST, par. 24

4. Articles selected from the Ellen G. White books currently available are not included but are listed in the Table of Contents. ST, par. 25

5. As already pointed out, those articles reproducing chapters from the four-volume Spirit of Prophecy series, if direct reprints, have not been included. If there is a variation in wording, the articles have been included. ST, par. 26

6. Sabbath school helps selected from the writings of Ellen G. White have not been included because they were gleaned from book sources and appeared as supplemental to the lessons. Inasmuch as they do not represent new material and did not appear as E. G. White articles per se in the Signs, they are neither included nor listed. ST, par. 27

7. Short filler paragraphs which occasionally appeared in the Signs, drawn from other published sources, were not included as articles and therefore are neither listed nor referred to in the facsimile reprints. ST, par. 28

A Wide Range of Subjects

As with the Review, Ellen White considered a wide range of subjects in her Signs articles. Many sermons were reported which present practical counsel as she set it before audiences from the public platform on three continents. There are many articles largely in the form of doctrinal expositions. The biographical articles are of interest, for often in connection with her travels she furnished the readers of the Signs with travel reports. The glimpses they give of the developing work of the church make a contribution to a knowledge of denominational history. There are articles filled with practical, vital instruction and words of encouragement. Some of the articles consist of messages of admonition and counsel as pertinent today as when they were first written and published. ST, par. 29

These articles will not bring to the readers anything startlingly new or outstandingly different from what Ellen White published in her books. They do present the heart burden of the messenger of the Lord down through the years. It was inevitable that over the period of her public ministry she would pass down the same pathway, perhaps a number of times, but each time she caught glimpses from a slightly different approach, which resulted in a slightly different emphasis. To the student each approach is of value, for it adds a little here and a little there in the construction of the larger and more complete picture of her overall teaching through the years. ST, par. 30

Sometimes she gleaned material from her articles for inclusion in her books. At other times she permitted book material to be used in articles. In some cases when preparing the material in print in one of her books, she rearranged some areas and changed the wording, adapting the presentation to her reading audience. This was her prerogative. It was ever her purpose to present the truths given to her in the clearest and best and most appropriate manner. She chose the best words at her command. A later reading at times led her to substitute a more fitting word here or there or even to change the sentence structure. Or as the materials were being put into permanent book form, some portions of temporary value might be dropped. For whatever was done, Mrs. White was responsible. ST, par. 31

Of particular value is the indication of the location of any of the material known to have been reproduced in the posthumous Ellen G. White books. It has not been possible to follow any uniform style of marking. If portions are used, such are usually marked in the margins and keyed to footnote references. Thus the student can tell at a glance where the materials appear in current books. It may be said here that no guarantee is made that these notations are complete. What we do say is that there is here passed on to the reader the record as it stands in the office of the Ellen G. White Estate. ST, par. 32

The quality of the reproductions varies greatly. It must be remembered that many times the original copy available was far from perfect. It is only by accepting conditions as they are—the quality of the work falling somewhat short of the standards of Pacific Press printing today—that these precious materials can now be made available at a price within the reach of the person who would value them. ST, par. 33

If these articles were reduced to standard book size pages, the total would aggregate in the neighborhood of 6000 pages. ST, par. 34

Each of the four volumes of these facsimile reprints contains the E. G. White articles for a period of several years. Full references to each article, date, volume, and number of the issue appear on the opening page in type or added by pen. The original paging of the sheets on which these articles appeared is of little value. Each of the four volumes of this series is paged separately, and the page number appears at the bottom of the sheet so far separated from the original paging that no confusion can ensue. As noted at the front of each volume there is a Table of Contents listing the articles and giving the page number supplied for the series. This listing includes articles that have not been reproduced because of their appearances in print elsewhere. At the back of volume 4 will be found an alphabetical listing of all reproduced articles in the four volumes. ST, par. 35

One word of advice: it is standard procedure when quoting material from an E. G. White article to give the date of the issue in which it appeared. The person quoting should continue this practice rather than to give the page numbers that have been supplied for this grouping. ST, par. 36

Streams of Light

The same year the Signs of the Times was begun, 1874, J. N. Andrews was sent to Europe as our first overseas missionary. Two years later James White called for the establishment of a publishing work in Europe in these words: ST, par. 37

“Mrs. White joins us in the pledge to give $1,000 for the mission and press in Europe before the close of 1876, and we shall expect those of our brethren who have more than a humble competency will join us with a liberal hand in this important work.”—The Review and Herald, March 30, 1876. ST, par. 38

In due time a press was set up in Switzerland, to be followed shortly in Norway, England, and Australia. By the time of the General Conference of 1901 there were twenty publishing houses in different parts of the world. Today the church has fifty publishing houses, printing in over 200 languages. Surely Ellen White's vision of 1848, that the publishing work would be like “streams of light” going around the world has literally and figuratively been fulfilled in a remarkable way. ST, par. 39

The publication of the monthly Signs of the Times continues today, a full century after its establishment. It seems especially significant that on the hundredth anniversary of the first issue of the Signs of the Times, Ellen White articles which appeared in this periodical down through the years could be prepared for publication in this form. ST, par. 40

Trustees of the Ellen G. White Estate

Ellen G. White Estate Washington, D. C. March 12, 1974