March 10, 2024

The Good Old Review

The progress of the cause continues.

Merle Poirier

By 1878 James White was still listed as General Conference (GC) president, and his name remained on the Review masthead, although by this time as a “corresponding editor.” Uriah Smith’s name continued to be included, but as “local editor.” Since White, in poor health, was living mostly in California, Smith was, for all practical purposes, the acting editor. James White did frequently send in articles for the paper.

A special General Conference Session was held March 1-4, 1878, but because of illness James White was unable to attend. It was the first one he’d missed. He sent a letter to be read in his absence, but it arrived too late, so the leadership used the pages of the Review to publish his message.1 This was not an unusual use of the paper. It continued to be an important means of communication for the scattered members.2

While James White’s health had been poor for some time, his death on August 6, 1881, still came as a shock. The announcement in the Review, presumably written by Uriah Smith, was outlined in black. Again the paper was being used to share information to members. Readers were given complete details of White’s last days, including a thorough medical description written by Dr. Kellogg.3 The August 23, 1881, masthead listed Uriah Smith as editor.

A Paper with Purpose

As editor, both while James White was alive as well as after his passing, Uriah Smith continued to emphasize Bible truth. While the General Conference president might lead the cause, Smith felt the Review embodied the cause. The paper was, as its name suggested, to herald the Advent as well as the Sabbath.

Each Review was full of Bible truth, whether written by Ellen White, Uriah Smith, or any other number of Adventist leaders. He gleaned the best of the best from non-Adventist but Christian publications, particularly in areas such as lifestyle or matters of the home.

Smith introduced a column called News and Miscellany in 1866. This column, he wrote, was “to give, as often as practicable, connected and well-digested articles on the current news of the day.” Thus readers would be informed of the “state of the world and the course of events,” continually reminding them of the nearness of the last days and the Second Coming.4

Direct warnings could be found on the back page to alert readers of false prophets, teachers, or preachers. In one example, under the title “Head Him Off,” Smith wrote: “We learn there is a man operating in Northern Michigan by the name of Sterling Hardin, who it seems ought to have his name transposed to Hardly Sterling.” He went on to describe the man, who posed as an Adventist, offering a Signs of the Times as proof. In reality, he had five wives, all living and abandoned, and his claim to be an Adventist minister was false. “Beware of him,” Smith continued. “No S.D. Adventist ought to be in a condition to be imposed upon by anyone who can show no credentials but a floating copy of a newspaper.”5

Smith would also remind his readers where the earth was in time. As an example, in 1884 his editorial for the new year summarized the world events of the previous year. He wrote of politics, revolutions, and world leaders, along with movements that threatened the church. He looked forward to the United States presidential election (Cleveland versus Blaine), wondering what impact, if any, would occur from its results. And he couldn’t resist reminding members that October 22 would mark the fortieth anniversary of 1844, comparing the Adventist journey to the 40-year wanderings of Israel.6

In 1891 he wrote of the challenge posed by second-generation Seventh-day Adventists. The first generation were, he wrote, as well informed as the ministers. If challenged, they could defend their spiritual beliefs, but some 30-40 years later it was no longer true. Why? Because as readers sent in questions for Smith’s response, he saw a decline in understanding. “The objections named are not some new and difficult objections which ministers have discovered by further study, but the old and ordinary ones with which the early believers in the message were familiar and knew how to meet on the instant.”7 Smith’s solution? Everyone should study until able to defend each and every spiritual position.

The Paper Stays Relevant

The Review changed some during this time. There were varying corresponding editors’ names listed on the masthead and occasionally an assistant editor. Corresponding editors (mostly church leaders and administrators) contributed articles as they were able. In 1880 the publishing board surprised readers with a reduction in the paper’s size, but an increase from eight to 16 pages. The editor wrote that the change allowed the paper to correspond to the size of other “popular journals,” adding that the change incurred no increase in subscription rates. A bold statement described the Review as “the largest journal in this country, if not in the world, devoted to expositions of prophecy, the signs of the times, the second coming of Christ, and kindred themes, and gives space for a great variety of reading matter on subjects of importance and interest.”8

By the 1890s, departments included: Our Contributors, Spiritual Mention, Religious Liberty, The Home, The Mission Field, and Progress of the Cause. In addition, helpful items continued for readers with a section for the Sabbath School lesson, News of the Week, Appointments, and Obituary Notices. Even train schedules were included. The price continued to be $2.00 per year, but at one point, in 1897, dropped to $1.50.9

One interesting feature was the addition of photographs, one appearing in the June 19, 1894, issue, a photo of the Haskell Orphans’ Home. The next issue had a photo of Union College.10 Previously, occasional ink drawings were included.

Troublesome Times Bring Change

In 1885 Alonzo T. Jones, 23, editor of Signs of the Times, disagreed with Uriah Smith’s interpretation of the 10 kingdoms in Daniel and wrote him a letter to let him know. Smith, widely respected as one of the foremost authorities in the church on prophecy, didn’t appreciate Jones’s interpretation, but didn’t become involved until Jones printed his understanding in the Signs of the Times. By 1887 Smith responded indirectly by doing the same in the Review, but as he understood the identification of the 10 kingdoms.11 While the dispute had up until this point been private, it was obvious by anyone reading the two papers that there was a disagreement on interpretation.

In addition, in 1886 a second new interpretation, that of righteousness by faith and the law of Galatians, was raised by Jones along with his coeditor, E. J. Waggoner. This stirred up even more controversy, with G. I. Butler, GC president, as well as Uriah Smith, both taking sides against the young Signs editors. The Review published Butler’s views on this new topic. One can imagine how readers might be confused. Two prominent and respected leaders—one the GC president, the other the Review editor—stood on principle against two young editors of another significant Adventist publication.

The 1888 General Conference Session brought both issues to prominence as Smith presented presentations on the 10 kingdoms (his view) and Waggoner presented on righteousness by faith (his view). There is not enough space to go into detail on their positions for each topic, but Smith dug in his heels especially related to the law in Galatians, even when Ellen White gave her support to Jones and Waggoner. One thing led to another, including several letters sent from Mrs. White to Smith appealing for him to reconsider. The Review editor was revered as a pioneer, theologian, and general church authority. Significant challenges arose when White, Jones, and Waggoner set out on a tour of churches to share the righteousness by faith message, only to have members receive their weekly Review with an opposing interpretation.

By 1889 Ellen White again called Smith to task, this time with every ounce of urgent appeal she had left. Smith eventually met with her along with several invited witnesses and confessed that his behavior was less than exemplary. Ellen White was thrilled and saw it as an answer to prayer, which it was. But while Smith may have confessed to his poor behavior, it wasn’t long before he continued to use the Review as a vehicle to promote his viewpoints that were distinctly against Jones and Waggoner. Confusion prevailed, and Mrs. White, who was now in Australia, along with GC president O. A. Olsen, were becoming exasperated.

It was finally determined by GC leadership that what might be best would be to send Uriah Smith on a world tour. It was proposed that Smith would accompany Stephen Haskell first to New England, then on to Europe. Smith was open to the idea and asked if his son, Wilton, could travel with him; he also had a desire to see Rome and Jerusalem. Leadership readily agreed to lengthening the tour, with the idea that if Smith could see the work in other parts of the world it would help him understand the cause in a way he couldn’t from his position in Battle Creek. And perhaps between the lines, we might understand that this trip would also give a momentary rest to Smith’s pen, at least on controversial topics. Smith, though, ever the writer and reporter, faithfully sent in “editorial correspondence” detailing his trip.12

A Change in the Masthead

G. C. Tenney, an Adventist editor from Australia, was asked to serve as assistant editor while Smith was traveling. The group left May 1, 1894, and didn’t return until January 18, 1895. By 1896 Smith and Tenney were coeditors.13 Then the publishing board announced in an October Review that Smith’s earlier adversary, A. T. Jones, would be editor, with Smith as his associate.

“The Board of Directors of the Review and Herald Publishing Company are glad to announce to the many friends of the cause, that Elder A. T. Jones has been added to the regular editorial staff of the Review and Herald. Brother Jones will devote his time to editorial work on the Review; and now, instead of speaking to comparatively few of our people in annual gatherings, he will address all of them every week. . . .

“Elder Smith will continue as associate editor; . . . we hope to have much more from his pen filled with the old-time fire of the message. Elder Smith’s long experience in the cause enables him to write as but few others can. He is one of the only two or three of the old pioneers of forty years’ labor in this work who are left to us.

“We believe that the combined labors of Brethren Smith and Jones will make the Review better than ever, and also that our brethren will appreciate this effort of the publishers to make the good old Review and Herald all that it ought to be to help the people in this important time.”14

With this significant change the Review entered a new era where, apart from one year, neither James White nor Uriah Smith were at the top of the masthead.

 1 Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Mar. 14, 1878. Two prominent and respected leaders—one the president, the other the Review editor—stood on principle against two young editors of another significant Adventist publication.

 2 Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Mar. 4, 1880, p. 152.

 3 Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Aug. 9, 1881, p. 104.

 4 Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Dec. 11, 1866, p. 6.

 5 Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, May 1, 1879, p. 144.

 6 Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Jan. 15, 1884, p. 40.

 7 Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Nov. 3, 1891, p. 680.

 8 Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Jan. 1, 1880, p. 8.

 9 Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Oct. 19, 1897.

10 Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, June 19, 1894, p. 394; June 26, 1894, p. 409.

11 Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, four parts in four issues, Jan. 4, 11, 18, and 25, 1887. While no author is listed, it is presumed to be Uriah Smith.

12 Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, June 12, 1894, is one example.

13 Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Mar. 3, 1896.

14 Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Oct. 5, 1897, p. 640.