Perfect unity should exist among the workers who handle the books that are to flood the world with light. Wherever the canvassing work is presented among our people, let the health books and the religious books be presented together as parts of a united work. The relation of the religious and health books is presented to me as illustrated by the union of the warp and the woof to form a beautiful pattern and a perfect piece of work.
In the past the health books have not been handled with the interest which their importance demands. Though by a large class they have been highly appreciated, yet many have not thought it essential that they should go to the world. But what can be better preparation for the coming of the Lord, and for the reception of other truths essential to prepare a people for His coming, than to arouse the people to see the evils of this age, and to stir them to reformation from self-indulgent and unhealthful habits? Is not the world in need of being aroused on the subject of health reform? Are not the people in need of the truths presented in the health books? A different sentiment from that which has heretofore prevailed regarding the health works should be entertained by many of our canvassers in the field.
Divisions and distinct parties should not be seen among our canvassers and general agents. All should be interested in the sale of the books
treating on the health question as well as in the sale of the distinctly religious works. The line is not to be drawn that certain books only are to occupy the attention of the canvassers. There must be perfect unity,--a well-balanced, symmetrical development of the work in all its parts.
The indifference with which the health books have been treated by many is an offence to God. To separate the health work from the great body of the work is not in His order. Present truth lies in the work of health reform as verily as in other features of gospel work. No one branch, when separated from others, can be a perfect whole.
The gospel of health has able advocates; but their work has been made very hard because so many ministers, presidents of conferences, and others in positions of influence, have failed to give the question of health reform its proper attention. They have not recognised it in its relation to the work of the message as the right arm of the body. While very little respect has been shown to this department by many of the people, and by some of the ministers, the Lord has shown His regard for it by giving it abundant prosperity. When properly conducted, the health work is an entering wedge, making a way for other truths to reach the heart. When the third angel's message is received in its fullness, health reform will be given its place in the councils of the conference, in the work of the church, in the home, at the table, and in all the household arrangements. Then the right arm will serve and protect the body.
But while the health work has its place in the promulgation of the third angel's message, its advocates must not in any way strive to make it take the place of the message. The health books should occupy their proper position; but the circulation of these books is only one of many lines in the great work to be done. The glowing impressions sometimes given to the canvasser in regard to the health books must not result in excluding from the field other important books that should come before the people. Those who have charge of the canvassing work should be men who can discern the relation of each part of the work to the great whole. Let them give due attention to the circulation of the health books, but not make this line so prominent as to draw men away from other lines of vital interest, thus excluding the books that bear the special message of truth to the world.
Just as much education is necessary for the handling of the religious books as for the handling of those that treat on the question of health and temperance. Just as much should be said in regard to the work of canvassing for books containing spiritual food, just as much effort should be made to encourage and educate workers to circulate books containing the third angel's message, as is said and done to develop workers for the health books.
The one class of books will always make a place for the other. Both are essential, and both should occupy the field at the same time. Each is the complement of the other, and can in
no-wise take its place. Both treat on subjects of highest value, and both must act their part in the preparation of the people of God for these last days. Both should stand as present truth, to enlighten, to arouse, to convince. Both should blend in the work of sanctifying and purifying the churches that are looking and waiting for the coming of the Son of God in power and great glory.
Let each publisher and general agent work enthusiastically to encourage the agents now in the field, and to hunt up and train new workers. Let each strengthen and build up the work as much as possible without weakening the work of others. Let all be done in brotherly love and without selfishness.
It has been urged as the best policy that only one book at a time should have a place in the canvassing field,--that all the canvassers should work for the same book. Could this be done, it would not be wise nor expedient. No one book should be carried exclusively and kept before the public as if it could supply every demand for this time. If the Lord has light for His people, brought out in different ways in various books, who shall venture to put up barriers so that the light shall not be diffused throughout the world? The Lord desires our brethren to devise plans so that the light He has given shall not be hid in our publishing-houses, but shall shine forth to enlighten all who will receive it.
If our canvassers are controlled by the spirit
of financial gain, if they circulate the book upon which they can make the most money, to the neglect of others that the people need, I ask, In what sense is theirs a missionary work? Where is the missionary spirit, the spirit of self-sacrifice? The work of the intelligent, God-fearing canvasser has been represented as equal to that of the gospel minister. Then should the canvasser feel at liberty, any more than the minister, to act from selfish motives? Should he be unfaithful to the principles of missionary work, and sell only those books that are cheapest and easiest to handle, neglecting to place before the people books which will give most light, because by so doing he can earn more money for himself? How is the missionary spirit revealed here? Has not the canvassing work ceased to be what it should be? How is it that no voice is raised to correct this state of things?
No canvasser should exalt the book for which he is working above others that set forth the truth for this time. Should our canvassers drop all but one book, and concentrate their energies on that, the work would not be carried on according to God's plan. Minds are not constituted alike, and what might be food for one might fail to attract another; therefore, books should be in the field treating in a variety of ways the special subjects for this time. It will be necessary for the canvasser to make a wise selection. Let no one who is doing the work of God become narrow and short-sighted. The Lord has many
instrumentalities through which He designs to work. When one book is exalted above another, there is danger that the very work best adapted to give light to the people will be crowded out. There is no need of contrasting different books, and judging as to which will do the most good. God has a place for all the voices and all the pens that He has inspired to utterance for Him. It will be difficult for some minds to fathom our most difficult works, and a simpler way of putting the truth will reach them more readily. Let the leading workers encourage the weaker ones, and show an equal interest in every one of the instrumentalities set in motion to prepare a people for the day of the Lord. Some would receive more benefit from papers and tracts than from books. Papers, tracts, and pamphlets that dwell upon Bible lessons, all need attention in the canvassing work, for they are as little wedges that open the way for larger works.
The canvasser should carry with him tracts, pamphlets, and small books to give to those who can not buy. In this way the truth will be introduced into many homes.
Canvassing for Periodicals.--A mistake has been made in soliciting subscriptions for our periodicals for only a few weeks, when by a proper effort much longer subscriptions might have been obtained. One yearly subscription is of more value than many for a short time. When the paper is taken for only a few months, the interest often ends with the short subscription. Few
renew their subscriptions for a longer period, and thus there is a large outlay of time that brings small returns, when, with a little more tact and perseverance, yearly subscriptions might have been obtained.
You strike too low, brethren; you are too narrow in your plans. You do not put into your work all the tact and perseverance that it deserves.
While short subscriptions are accepted, some will not make the necessary effort to obtain them for a longer time. Canvassers should not go over the ground in a careless, unconcerned manner. They should feel that they are God's workers, and the love of souls should lead them to make every effort to enlighten men and women in regard to the truth. Providence and grace, means and ends, are closely connected. When His labourers do their very best. God does for them that which they can not do for themselves; but no one need expect to succeed independently and by his own exertions. There must be activity united with firm trust in God.
Secular Books.--In this age the trivial is praised and magnified. There is a call for anything that will create a sensation. The country is flooded with worthless publications, which were written for the sake of making money, while really valuable books are unsold and unread. Those who handle this sensational literature, because by so doing they can make higher wages, are missing precious opportunities of obtaining discipline and
intelligence in doing good through cooperation with God. It will require earnest effort to arrest the attention of men and women, and interest them in really valuable books that have the Bible for their foundation. And it will be a still greater task to find conscientious, God-fearing workers who will canvass for these books of highest value for the purpose of diffusing light and a correct knowledge of God.
My heart aches as I see those who profess to be looking for the Saviour devoting their time and talents to circulating books that contain nothing concerning the special truths for this time,--books of narrative, books of biography, books of men's theories and speculations. The world is full of such books, they can be had anywhere; but how can the followers of Christ engage in so common a work, when there is crying need for God's truth on every hand. It is not our mission to circulate such works. There are thousands of others to do this, who as yet have not sufficient knowledge of anything better. We have a definite mission, and we should not turn from it to side-issues. Men and means are not to be employed in bringing before the people books that have no bearing upon the present truth.
The world is deluged with books that might better be consumed rather than circulated. Books upon Indian warfare and similar topics, published
and circulated as a money-making scheme, might better never be read. There is a Satanic fascination in these books. The heart-sickening relation of crimes and atrocities has a bewitching power upon many youth, exciting in them the desire to bring themselves into notice, even by the most wicked deeds. There are many works more strictly historical whose influence is little better. The enormities, the cruelties, the licentious practises, portrayed in these writings, have acted as leaven in many minds, leading to the commission of similar acts. Books that delineate the Satanic deeds of human beings are giving publicity to evil works. The horrible details of crime and misery need not be lived over, and none who believe the truth for this time should act a part in perpetuating their memory.
Love stories and frivolous and exciting tales constitute another class of books that is a curse to every reader. The author may attach a good moral, and all through his work may weave religious sentiments; yet in most cases Satan is but clothed in angel robes, the more effectually to deceive and allure. The mind is affected in a great degree by that upon which it feeds. The readers of frivolous, exciting tales become unfitted for the duties lying before them. They lead an unreal life, and have no desire for useful employment, and no desire to search the Scriptures, to feed upon the heavenly manna. The mind is enfeebled, and loses its power to contemplate the great problems of duty and destiny.
I have been instructed that the youth are
exposed to the greatest peril from improper reading. Satan is constantly leading both the youth and those of mature age to be charmed with worthless stories. Could a large share of the books published be consumed, a plague would be stayed that is doing a fearful work in weakening the mind and corrupting the heart. None are so confirmed in right principles as to be secure from temptation. All this trashy reading should be resolutely discarded.
We have no permission from the Lord to engage in either the printing or the sale of such literature, for it is the means of destroying many souls. I know of what I am writing; for this matter has been opened before me. Let not those who believe the truth engage in this work, thinking to make money. The Lord will put a blight upon the means thus obtained; He will scatter more than is gathered.
Circulation and Prices of Our Publications.-- Some things of grave importance have not been receiving due attention at our offices of publication. Men in responsible positions should have worked up plans whereby our books could be circulated, and not lie on the shelves, falling dead from the press. Our people are behind the times, and are not following the opening providence of God.
Many of our publications have been thrown into the market at so low a figure that the profits have not been sufficient to sustain the office and keep good a fund for continual use. And those
of our people who have no special burden for the various branches of the work, do not become informed in regard to the wants of the cause, and the capital required to keep the business moving. They do not understand the liability to losses, and the expense every day occurring to such institutions. They seem to think that everything moves off without much care or outlay of means, and therefore they urge the necessity of the lowest figures on our publications, thus leaving scarcely any margin. And after the prices have been reduced to almost ruinous figures, they manifest but a feeble interest in increasing the sales of the very books on which they have asked such low prices. The object gained, their burden ceases, when they ought to have an earnest interest and a real care to press the sale of the publications, thereby sowing the seeds of truth, and bringing means into the offices to invest in other publications.
There has been a very great neglect of duty on the part of ministers in not interesting the churches in the localities where they labour, in regard to this matter. When once the prices of books are reduced, it is very difficult to get them again upon a paying basis, as men of narrow minds will cry, Speculation, not discerning that no one man is benefited, and that God's instrumentalities must not be crippled for want of capital. Books that ought to be widely circulated are lying useless in our offices of publication, because there is not interest enough manifested to get them circulated.
The press is a power; but if its products fall dead for want of men to circulate them widely, its power is lost. While our brethren have freely expended means in facilities to multiply books and tracts, they have not planned to bring back the means invested, so as to produce other publications. The power of the press, with all its advantages, is in their hands; and they can use it to the very best account, or they can be half asleep, and through inaction miss the advantages that might be gained. By judicious calculation they can extend the light in the sale of books and pamphlets. They can send them into thousands of families that now sit in the darkness of error.
God calls upon His people to act like living men, and not be indolent, sluggish, and indifferent. We must carry the publications to the people, and urge them to accept, showing them that they will receive much more than their money's worth. Exalt the value of the books you offer. You can not regard them too highly.
My soul was agonised as I saw the indifference of our people who make so high a profession. The blood of souls will be on the garments of very many who now feel at ease and irresponsible for souls that are perishing around them for want of light and knowledge. They have come in contact with them, but have never warned them, never prayed with or for them, and never made earnest efforts to present the truth to them. There has been a wonderful negligence on this point.