The HFJ was the successor to the Southern Baptist Missionary Journal (SBMJ), which ceased publication in May 1851, and The Commission, which ended its initial run in June 1851. Like the SBMJ, the HFJ was a cooperative venture of the Foreign and Domestic mission boards, and H. K. Ellyson continued as editor for the first three years, followed by A. M. Poindexter. Like The Commission, it was a broadsheet-style newspaper printed on the front and back of two pages instead of a longer magazine. In 1851, a single copy cost 25 cents, and an annual subscription cost two dollars.
After a gap of seven years caused by the Civil War, the HFJ resumed publication as a new series, starting over at Volume 1, Number 1 (May 1868). Now published by “the three Boards of the Southern Baptist Convention” (Foreign, Domestic and Indian, and Sunday School) with FMB Corresponding Secretary James B. Taylor at the helm, the journal covered news, literary submissions, and miscellany from the U.S. and abroad. Upon Taylor’s death in 1872, John C. Long maintained the paper for another two years, at which point it was replaced by the Foreign Mission Journal.