Editorial Foreword.—We believe this journal renders a distinct service to the cause of truth in placing before the worker force of this movement reliable information on such vital matters as those relating to the writings of the Ellen G. White books, here presented. Beginning with this issue, three articles will appear, giving the story of the background, writing, and issuance of the Conflict of the Ages series—"Patriarchs and Prophets," "Prophets and Kings," "The Desire of Ages," "Acts of the Apostles," and The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan."
Negotiations for this series were begun a year ago, and we are happy they are now available. We all need the information personally. We need it to answer the sincere and natural questions that arise in the minds of others. And we need it to meet the quibbles of critics and the insinuations of antagonists. Nothing so clarifies and satisfies as the facts. We are persuaded that such information builds for confidence, and lays the foundation for the still more effective use of these Spirit-indited writings vouchsafed to the remnant church.—L. E. F.
First Ellen G. White Books
In the summer of 1851, there was printed by the Davidson Printing Company of Saratoga Springs, New York, a 64-page pamphlet entitled, "A Sketch of the Christian Experience and Views of Ellen G. White." This, her first book, contained not only articles from her pen that had formerly appeared in print, but also a few chapters presenting other matters that had been revealed to her, but which had not been previously published.
In 1854, a 48-page supplement to "Experience and Views" was issued, which included several later revelations. These two pamphlets, as reprinted in 1882, constitute the first two sections of "Early Writings."
"Spiritual Gifts," Volumes I-IV
During the week end of March 13 and 14, 1858, Elder and Mrs. James White attended meetings at Lovett's Grove, Ohio, now Bowling Green. On Sunday afternoon, the fourteenth, a funeral service was conducted by James White in the schoolhouse where the Sabbath meetings had been held. Following her husband's discourse, Mrs. White arose and began to speak words of comfort to the mourners. While thus speaking, she was taken off in vision, and for two hours, during which time the congregation remained in the building, the Lord through divine revelation opened up to her many matters of importance to the church. Of this she wrote:
"In the vision at Lovett's Grove, most of the matter which I had seen ten years before concerning the great controversy of the ages between Christ and Satan, was repeated, and I was instructed to write it out. I was shown that while I should have to contend with the powers of darkness, for Satan would make strong efforts to hinder me, yet I must put my trust in God, and angels would not leave me in the conflict."—"Life Sketches of Ellen G. White," p. 162.
The day following, James and Ellen White began their homeward journey. On the train, they reviewed their recent experiences and discussed plans for writing out the vision, and for publishing that portion relating to the great controversy. This, it was decided, should be Mrs. White's first work after reaching home.
Little did they realize the anger of Satan because of this revelation of his character and wiles, or the intensity of his determination to defeat the plans for the writing and publishing of the proposed book.
Arriving at Jackson, Michigan, en route to Battle Creek, they visited their old friends at the home of Daniel R. Palmer. At this time Mrs. White was in usual health, and the following experience, as given in her own words, came as a complete surprise:
"As I was conversing with Sister Palmer, my tongue refused to utter what I wished to say, and seemed large and numb. A strange, cold sensation struck my heart, passed over my head, and down my right side. For a, time I was insensible, but was aroused by the voice of earnest prayer. I tried to use my left limbs, but they were perfectly useless."—Ibid.
As she realized that this was the third shock of paralysis that she had experienced, Mrs. White for a time lost hope of recovery; but in response to the continued earnest prayers of the brethren, her strength was partially restored and she was able to continue the journey to her home. While suffering intensely from the effects of this stroke, she began to delineate the scenes of the great controversy as they had been revealed to her. Of this she wrote:
"At first I could write but one page a day, and then rest three days; but as I progressed, my strength increased. The numbness in my head did not seem to becloud my mind, and before I closed that work C"Spiritual Gifts,' Volume II the effect of the shock had entirely left me."—Id., p. 163.
As she was completing her work on the manuscript for the book, in June, 1858, Mrs. White received light on her experience at the home of Brother Palmer, and of this she says:
"I was shown in vision that in the sudden attack at Jackson, Satan intended to take my life, in order to hinder the work I was about to write; but angels of God were sent to my rescue."—Ibid.
In September of that same year, announcement was made that "Spiritual Gifts—The Great Controversy Between Christ and His Angels and Satan and His Angels," was ready for distribution. Its 219 pages touched only briefly the high points of the conflict story. This early work, "Spiritual Gifts," Volume I, is available to all, constituting the third section of the book entitled, "Early Writings."
Given by Revelation
The first sentence in this little work declares, "The Lord has shown me * that Satan was once an honored angel in heaven." The words "I saw" or their equivalent appear in this little work on an average of more than once for each page of the book. It is clear to the reader that at times the scenes passed before her in great panoramic views. (See "Early Writings," page 289.) At other times, certain events and their significance were presented symbolically. (See "Early Writings," pp. 211, 212.)
In brief but concise general statements, important periods of history were summed up, revealing the background of the invisible contending forces of good and evil. (See "Early Writings," pp. 222-226.)
"Spiritual Gifts," Volume II, published in 1860, was an autobiographical work.
Great panoramic views were given to Mrs. White in the years following, presenting in fuller detail various phases of the controversy. And in 1864, Volumes III and IV of "Spiritual Gifts" appeared, dealing more comprehensively with the fall of Lucifer, the creation, the fall of man, the lives of the patriarchs, and the experience of —Israel. These volumes bear the subtitle, "Important Facts of Faith in Connection With the History of Holy Men of Old."
"The Spirit of Prophecy," Volumes 1-III
The years passed, the number of believers rapidly increased, and there was need of more books. The brethren called for the republication of the little books, "Spiritual Gifts," which they had learned to love, but Mrs. White felt that she could not consent to this. Since their publication, she had been favored with revelations in which the views had been repeated in more, detail; so she pleaded for time and opportunity to present the subjects more completely before they were published again. Definite plans were laid for a series of four volumes, of about four hundred pages each, to contain a fuller account of the great conflict, from its inception to its close.
The work on this new series moved forward much more slowly than had been anticipated. Volume I, which was issued in 1870, told the conflict story from the fall of Lucifer and the creation to the time of Solomon. Volumes II and III (issued in 1877 and 1878), dealt with the life and work of Christ and the apostles. Some chapters intended for Volume IV were written; but not until the autumn of 1882, one year after the death of James White, was the work of preparing this volume for the press undertaken in earnest.
(To be continued)
* Note.—As prepared for republication in 1882, the phrase "I saw" and its equivalent were many times omitted.
* Copyright by The Ellen G. White Estate (Incorporated), 1936.