In entering upon the labors of the new year, we sincerely hope we have the best wishes and devout prayers of our long tried and faithful friends and patrons for success in our attempts to make our publication more useful in the future than it has been in the years which are past. Thirty-five years of constant labor in this field of our calling has, we trust, convinced us of our need of divine support, and our dependence on God for every requisite qualification to edify, instruct, admonish, exhort and comfort the saints of the Lord, either in the pulpit or through the press. Our ministerial labors have not been less on account of the time and labor devoted to the publication of the “Signs of the Times”. Whilst engaged in publishing this paper, we have traveled more extensively into the different and distant parts of our wide-spread country than we probably should have done were it not for acquaintance formed through our publication with brethren in distant parts. But while our preaching labors have been comparatively local, we have had the privilege of addressing “the saints scattered abroad,” and of receiving communications from them during the whole time. Twice in each month for thirty-five years, we have sent out our paper containing communications and epistles of love from brethren and sisters in all parts, and to those in all parts of the country.
So general a correspondence of the children of God could scarcely fail to comfort, benefit, and edify the readers of our periodical; and that they have been blessed to this end has been abundantly attested by many thousands of the saints.
In preparing to enter upon the new year and the new volume, we were at some loss whether to reduce the subscription price of the paper, which now, from our extensive and increasing circulation, we could do without loss to ourself, or to supply our subscribers with more reading matter without increasing the cost. We, after advising with our brethren, determined on the latter course, and shall in this new volume supply one half as much more matter as formerly. This will increase our expense nearly fifty percent; but it will give room for many communications of great worth which have hitherto been kept back for want of room for insertion.
Our present facilities for publishing are, as far as needed for our purposes, equal to any printing house in the States, and one paper well sustained will much better meet the interests and desires of our brethren at large than a greater number of papers, for at least two important reasons:
First. The effect of several papers would circumscribe the range of correspondence to certain localities, whereas one paper will spread them to every part of the country, and a general interchange of sentiments will tend to a greater degree of union and Christian love and fellowship.
Secondly. The greater the circulation of a paper, the cheaper it can be published, and consequently the greater amount of reading can be supplied for less expense to the readers.
Having already occupied our position as publisher of the “Signs of the Times” for fully one half of the three-score years and ten allotted to man on the earth, we feel a consciousness that the time of our departure from the field of our labor is not very far distant, when another will be required to take our place, we can speak on this subject with less embarrassment than we could in earlier periods, and at times when there were other periodicals of the same profession in the field.
It is well known that ours was the first paper ever published in our country devoted exclusively to the cause of the Old School or Primitive order of Baptists, and that, although its circulation has been restricted, and its publication embarrassed from time to time by a number of new publications of the same profession, that ours is the only one that has been continued when attended with pecuniary loss to their proprietors.
This year we try the experiment of giving twelve pages in each number instead of only eight, and at the rate of two dollars a year, as formerly, to be paid in advance. Should we be sustained, we shall hope at no distant day to issue our paper every week at the same price. And at all events we shall try to keep up with the liberality of our patrons by furnishing them with all that we can afford for the amount, and with more, we think, than can be afforded by any other establishment in the States.
As to the doctrine and order to which our paper is pledged, our record is with our brethren. As in thirty-five years we have never departed from any item contained in our original prospectus, we are sure our brethren will entertain no serious apprehensions of a departure at so late a period of our life. But we are not our own keeper, and if left of the Lord to our own feeble judgment or ability, we should surely fall. In defense of what is generally regarded by all Old School or Primitive Baptists as the doctrine of the Bible, and the faith which was once delivered to the saints, we have endured a great amount of opposition, reproach and persecution from avowed enemies, and also from professed friends. But having obtained help of the Lord, we continue to the present time and feel disposed even now to adopt the words of the apostle, “But none of these things move me; neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.”
While we would encourage a temperate and brotherly discussion of all subjects which are of vital interest to those who are of the household of faith, we are opposed to all vain speculations which gender strife and discord among the people of God. We are under a solemn charge to contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered to the saints; but we are forbidden to strive for mastery, or for the gratification of carnal ambition. Letters on Christian experience, wherein the writers give account of God’s dealings with them in his Spirit’s work in their hearts, however simply written, scarcely ever fail to afford sweet comfort and satisfaction to the saints. Admonitions and exhortations to the children of the kingdom, when addressed in harmony with the Spirit and the word, are of great importance, but in all our communications we must recognize and accept the Scriptures of truth as the unerring standard by which all our words and actions, as well as the spirit of them, are to be tested.
As editor and publisher, all communications are necessarily submitted to us as we are held responsible to our brethren for the matter published in our columns. Brethren who submit their communications must not feel hurt if we suppress such of them as in our judgment would not tend to edification. Or should we insert them, or any of them, with our objections to anything which they embrace, no brother or sister should be hurt with us, as it is a duty incumbent on us as editor, and this duty we desire to perform according to our best ability, without partiality or prejudice.
The paramount object of every writer, including the editor, should be the edification of the saints, and the glory of God, therefore if any of us should inadvertently express any sentiment or idea which is not sustained by the Scriptures, especially should such sentiment or idea be in conflict with the word of truth, it should be our desire that the error might be detected and exposed, so as to prevent any harm from it to the children of God.
With our enlarged facilities for publishing, we shall require the cooperation of our brethren and sisters to furnish us with suitable matter. Unlike all other publications of the day, our paper is filled chiefly, and almost exclusively, with original articles, as there is very little contained in the religious magazines and newspapers of the age suitable for our columns. We hope to be kept advised of the state and condition of our churches and associations, and also of our brethren and friends of the cause of truth in all sections of the country, that we may be enabled to meet the constant enquiries of those who, like the psalmist, are praying for the peace and prosperity of Jerusalem.
We tender our grateful acknowledgements to those dear brethren who have so greatly assisted us by their communications and exertions to procure subscribers, collect payments, and forward remittances, and hope they will not be weary in well doing; and we hope that all who feel an interest in the dissemination of truth and opposition to error, will use their influence in our behalf. We shall need the aid of all, and we appeal especially to our brethren in the ministry to act in our behalf as agents for the “Signs,” in procuring subscribers, and forwarding remittances; but we rely also on the exertions of all the friends of the cause in which we are engaged. We believe that with reasonable effort our circulation could be doubled, and we enabled to issue our paper every week. Will our brethren and friends make the effort?
January 1, 1868.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 7
Pages 117 – 121