This number of the Signs of the Times completes our twenty-ninth volume, and the incessant labor of its present and only publisher, proprietor and editor, for the last twenty-nine years. During our connection with this publication, according to the course of nature, one generation has passed away, and very many of our present patrons were unborn when our labors commenced. Yet there are a few upon our list of subscribers who have sustained us from the beginning; but thousands of those who witnessed our commencement have finished their course, and left these mortal shores to return to earth no more. We who survive have great reason to acknowledge, with humble gratitude, the goodness and mercy of God in sustaining us unto the present time. Because He changes not, we are not consumed. Surely His mercy endureth forever, and it has followed us all our days.
Should we recount all the trials, perplexities, conflicts and discouraging circumstances through which the Lord has brought us, the record would fill a volume; and we must say with David, “They are more than we can number.” O, that we could render suitable acknowledgements and thanksgiving to the Lord! The year now closing has been the most prolific in startling events of any which we have witnessed. Although the season has been crowned with abundant crops to reward the labors of the husband-man, and to furnish subsistence in abundance for both man and beast, and in many other respects God has showered temporal blessings upon us with a profuse hand, yet we are overshadowed with an appalling cloud, which throws a gloom over every family and household in our country. The seeds of dissension which have been sowed broadcast over our beloved country for many years have ripened into a civil conflict of fearful dimensions. The ties of fraternity which were cemented with the patriotic blood of our revolutionary fathers, and which have formerly bound the citizens of our widespread country in a consolidated commonwealth, surpassing all other nations in prosperity, peace, and independence, have failed to secure us from strife and internecine war. The causes which have led to this lamentable state of discord and bloodshed, it may not be proper for us to discuss. But as we feel the scourge may we not, in the language of the scriptures, enquire, “Is there evil in the city (or country) and the Lord hath not done it?” We must acknowledge that God holds the destiny of nations, as He holds the destiny of men, in His own hands, and if favored with peace and prosperity, all admit that we are bound to give thanks to God, as the giver of every good and perfect gift. And if it be His sovereign pleasure to withhold those inestimable blessings and to send His awful judgments abroad, it becomes us equally to acknowledge His hand and humbly bow before Him, confessing our sins which have provoked His wrath. “Shall we receive good from His hand, and not evil?” was the inquiry of Job in his deep afflictions. God is certainly just and righteous in all His ways; and it becomes us to “Be still and know that He is God!” And while we feel His rod we shall confess our sins and repent in dust and ashes. The consequence of the present war has thus far fallen very heavily upon the Old School Baptists, and especially so on our publication. As a church the Old School Baptists, who have had no hand in producing the existing animosity which now threatens the perpetuity of our civil institutions, are, for the present, deprived of the social intercourse which has formerly been so pleasant and profitable to us; and the interchange of epistolary correspondence, through our paper, is, to a large extent, cut off by the conflict in which sister States are involved. Under these circumstances the question, Shall the publication of the Signs of the Times be allowed to stop? has assumed a grave importance. To continue its publication must necessarily require a strong effort on the part of such of its friends as are still able to reach forth a helping hand. At least one half of its former patrons must be, for the present, and during the suspension of the mails and the continuance of the war, dropped from our list and our circulation restricted to those States where the mails are still conveyed. Many of those in our Northern States where mailing facilities are still continued, by prostration of their business and other causes incidental to the war, are compelled to retrench their expenses to bring them within their limited means; and some have already ordered a discontinuance of their subscriptions because of the hardness of the times. But while we all admit that common prudence requires retrenchment of our expenses, would it not be well for us carefully to consider whether we can afford to dispense with the Signs of the Times as a medium for christian correspondence, and thereby of its spiritual consolation? The comparatively trifling expense of one dollar a year would make but little difference, while, perhaps, there are many other places where a retrenchment of the same amount would not deprive us of any religious privilege. Many of our subscribers have assured us they would sooner dispense with one meal a day, or any other strictly worldly comfort, than the privilege of hearing from the scattered flock of the Redeemer, through the periodical visits of the Signs of the Times.
Never since we began the publication has its circulation been needed more than at the present time. While all around us seems tempetuous and stormy; when many other sources of comfort are cut off, do we not need still more the comforting, edifying and cheering communications of those whom we dearly love in the Lord?
Brethren, friends, and patrons of the Signs of the Times, let us hear from you, and those who feel resolved to renew their subscription, please make an effort to procure other names, and send in clubs, if possible. Remember that five dollars sent in advance will pay for six copies for one year.
As we are cut off from all correspondence with the publisher of the Southern Baptist Messenger, remittance for that paper should no longer be sent to us. For the present we receive payments for no other publication but the Signs of the Times.
December 15, 1861.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 5
Pages 103 - 106