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Manual for Canvassers

Since canvassing for our literature is a missionary work, it should be conducted from a missionary standpoint. Those selected as canvassers should be men and women who feel the burden of service, whose object is not to get gain, but to give light to the people. All our service is to be done to the glory of God, to give the light of truth to those who are in darkness. Selfish principles, love of gain, dignity, or position, should not be once named among us.

Canvassers need to be daily converted to God, that their words and deeds may be a savour of life unto life, that they may exert a saving influence. The reason why so many have failed in the canvassing work is that they were not genuine Christians; they did not know the spirit of conversion. They had a theory as to how the work should be done, but they did not feel their dependence upon God.

Canvassers, remember that in the books you handle you are presenting, not the cup containing the wine of Babylon,--doctrines of error dealt to the kings of the earth,--but the cup full of the preciousness of the truth of redemption. Will you yourselves drink of it? Your minds can be brought into captivity to the will of Christ, and He can put upon you His own superscription. By beholding, you will become changed from glory to glory, from character to character. God wants you to come to the front, speaking the words He will give you. He wants you to show


that you place a high estimate upon humanity, humanity that has been purchased by the precious blood of the Saviour. When you fall upon the rock, and are broken, you will experience the power of Christ, and others will recognise the power of the truth upon your hearts.

To those who are attending school that they may learn how to do the work of God more perfectly, I would say: Remember that it is only by a daily consecration to God that you can become soul-winners. There have been those who were unable to go to school, because they were too poor to pay their way. But when they became sons and daughters of God, they took hold of the work where they were, labouring for those around them. Though destitute of the knowledge obtained in school, they consecrated themselves to God, and God worked through them. Like the disciples when called from their nets to follow Christ, they learned precious lessons from the Saviour. They linked themselves with the Great Teacher, and the knowledge they gained from the Scriptures qualified them to speak to others of Christ. Thus they became truly wise, because they were not too wise in their own estimation to receive instruction from above. The renewing power of the Holy Spirit gave them practical saving energy.

The knowledge of the most learned man, if he has not learned in Christ's school, is foolishness so far as leading souls to Christ is concerned. God can work with those only who will accept the invitation: "Come unto Me, all ye that labour


and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light." Matt. 11:28-30.

By many of our canvassers there has been a departure from right principles. Through a desire to reap worldly advantage, their minds have been drawn away from the real purpose and spirit of the work. Let none think that display will make right impressions upon the people. This will not secure the best or most permanent results. Our work is to direct minds to the solemn truths for this time. It is only when our hearts are imbued with the spirit of the truths contained in the book we are selling, and when in humility we call the attention of the people to these truths, that real success will attend our efforts; for it is only then that the Holy Spirit, who convinces of sin, of righteousness, and of judgement, will be present to impress hearts.

Our books should be handled by consecrated workers, whom the Holy Spirit can use as His instrumentalities. Christ is our sufficiency, and we are to present the truth in humble simplicity, letting it bear its own savour of life unto life.

Humble, fervent prayer would do more in behalf of the circulation of our books than all the expensive embellishments in the world. If the workers will turn their attention to that which is true and living and real; if they will pray for, believe for, and trust in the Holy Spirit, His


power will be poured upon them in strong, heavenly currents, and right and lasting impressions will be made upon the human heart. Then pray and work, and work and pray, and the Lord will work with you.

Every canvasser has positive and constant need of the angelic ministration; for he has an important work to do, a work that he can not do in his own strength. Those who are born again, who are willing to be guided by the Holy Spirit, doing in Christ's way that which they can do, those who will work as if they could see the heavenly universe watching them, will be accompanied and instructed by holy angels, who will go before them to the dwellings of the people, preparing the way for them. Such help is far above all the advantages that expensive embellishments are supposed to give.

When men realise the times in which we are living, they will work as in the sight of heaven. The canvasser will handle those books that bring light and strength to the soul. He will drink in the spirit of those books, and will put his whole soul into the work of presenting them to the people. His strength, his courage, his success, will depend on how fully the truth presented in the books is woven into his own experience and developed in his character. When his own life is thus molded, he can go forward, representing to others the sacred truth he is handling. Imbued with the Spirit of God, he will gain a deep, rich experience; and heavenly angels will give him success in the work.


To our canvassers, to all whom God has entrusted with talents that they may cooperate with Him, I would say: Pray, O pray for a deeper experience! Go forth with your hearts softened and subdued by a study of the precious truths that God has given us for this time. Drink deeply of the water of salvation, that it may be in your hearts as a living spring, flowing forth to refresh souls ready to perish. God will then give wisdom to enable you to impart aright. He will make you channels for communicating His blessings. He will help you to reveal His attributes by imparting to others the wisdom and understanding that He has imparted to you.

Selection of Canvassers.--Some are better adapted than others for doing a certain work; therefore it is not correct to think that every one can be a canvasser. Some have no special adaptability for this work, but they are not, because of this, to be regarded as faithless or unwilling. The Lord is not unreasonable in His requirements. The church is as a garden in which is a variety of flowers, each with its own peculiarities. Though in many respects all may differ, yet each plant and flower has a value of its own.

God does not expect that with their different temperaments His people will each be prepared for any and every place. Let us all remember that there are varied trusts. It is not the work of any man to prescribe the work of any other man, contrary to his own convictions of duty.


It is right to give counsel and suggest plans, but every man should be left free to seek directions from God, whose he is, and whom he serves.

The canvassing work is more important than many have regarded it. If there is one work more important than another, it is that of getting our publications before the people, thus leading them to search the Scriptures. As much care and wisdom must be used in selecting the workers as in selecting men for the ministry. In all parts of the field, colporteurs and canvassers should be chosen, not from the floating element of society, not from among men and women who are good for nothing else and who have made a success of nothing, but from among those who have good address, tact, keen foresight, and ability.

Persons of uncouth manners are not fitted for this work. Men and women who possess tact, good address, keen foresight, and discriminating minds, and who feel the value of souls, are the ones who can be successful.

Those of the best talent and ability, who will take hold of the work understandingly and systematically, and carry it forward with persevering energy, are the ones who should be selected. There should be a most thoroughly organised plan; and this should be most faithfully carried out. {MC 15.3}

Men should be at work who are willing to be taught as to the best way of approaching individuals


and families. Their dress should be neat, but not foppish, and their manner such as not to disgust the people. Among us as a people there is a great lack of true politeness. Much is gained by courtesy.

Canvassers need self-culture and polished manners, not the affected and artificial manners of the world, but the agreeable manners that are the natural result of kindness of heart and a desire to copy the example of Christ. They should cultivate thoughtful, care-taking habits,--habits of industry and discretion,-- and should seek to honour God by making of themselves all that it is possible for them to become. Christ made an infinite sacrifice to place them in right relations to God and to their fellow men; and divine aid, combined with human effort, will enable them to reach a high standard of excellence. The canvasser should be chaste like Joseph, meek like Moses, and temperate like Daniel; then a power will attend him wherever he goes.

Preparation for Their Work.--Very much more efficient work can be done in the canvassing field than has yet been done. The canvasser should not rest satisfied unless he is constantly improving. The Lord desires every one to improve to the utmost the talents committed to his trust. He desires the workers in His cause to study His word diligently, that its practical teaching may have a positive bearing upon their lives. The faithful, youthful Timothy was taught by experienced men of God's appointment how to study


the word and how to explain it. Paul, his father in the gospel, speaking by the Holy Spirit, addressed him in the words: "Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." "Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus." "And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also." 2 Tim. 2:1, 15; 1:13; 2:2, 3. Here is a thought that we should do well to ponder. Timothy was to make the very best use of his powers in hearing the word of the Lord from the lips of Paul. This instruction he was faithfully to preserve, and entrust to men who would impart the principles of truth.

Canvassers should be sent out two and two. Inexperienced workers should be sent out with those of more experience, who can give them help. They can converse together and study the word of life together, praying with and for each other. Thus both the younger and the elder Christian will receive the blessing of God.

The canvasser should thoroughly acquaint himself with the book he is handling, and be able readily to call attention to the important chapters. He should make thorough preparation; but should not be content with a set form of words;


he should give the Lord opportunity to work with his efforts and impress his mind. The love of Jesus abiding in his heart will enable him to devise ways of gaining access to individuals and families.

The work of the colporteur is elevating and will prove a success if he is honest, earnest, and patient, steadily pursuing the work he has undertaken. His heart must be in the work. He must rise early and work industriously, putting to proper use the facilities God has given him. Difficulties must be met. If confronted with unceasing perseverance, they will be overcome. The worker may continually be forming a symmetrical character. Great characters are formed by little acts and efforts.

Young men are wanted who are men of understanding, who appreciate the intellectual faculties that God has given them, and who cultivate these faculties with the utmost care. Exercise strengthens and expands the mind; and if heart-culture is not neglected, the character will be well balanced. The means of improvement are within the reach of all. Then let none disappoint the Master, when He comes seeking for fruit, by presenting nothing but leaves. A resolute purpose, sanctified by the grace of Christ, will accomplish wonders.

Canvassers should be impressed with the fact that the canvassing work is the very work the


Lord desires them to do. They should remember that they are in the service of God.

Painstaking effort is required; instruction must be given; a sense of the importance of the work must be kept before the workers. All must cherish the spirit of self-denial and self-sacrifice that has been exemplified in the life of our Redeemer.

Let canvassers read the sixth chapter of Isaiah, and take its lesson home to their hearts:

"Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar; and he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me." Isa. 6:5-8.

This representation will be acted over and over again. The Lord desires to have many take part in this grand work, those who are consecrated, whose hearts are humble, and who are willing to engage in any line that demands their service.

Energy and Courage.--Among the people who profess present truth there is not a missionary spirit corresponding to our faith. The ring of the true gold in character is wanting. Christian life is more than many take it to be. It does not


consist in mere gentleness, patience, meekness, and kindliness. These graces are essential; but there is need of courage, decision, energy, and perseverance also. Many who engage in the work of canvassing are weak, nerveless, spiritless, easily discouraged. They lack push. They have not those positive traits of character that give men power to do something,--the spirit and energy that kindle enthusiasm. The canvasser is engaged in an honourable business, and he should not act as if he were ashamed of it. If he desires that success shall attend his efforts, he must be courageous and hopeful. {MC 19.5}

He who is called of God to so sacred a work should feel that its accomplishment demands all his energies. He should cultivate not only the passive but the active virtues. While he should give the soft answer that turns away wrath, the Christian must possess the courage of a hero to resist evil. With the charity that endures all things, he must have the force of character which will make his influence a positive power for good. Into his character must be wrought faith and dependence upon God. His principles must be firm. He must be noble-spirited, above all suspicion of meanness.

The canvasser must not be self-inflated. In his association with others he must not make himself conspicuous, or talk in a boastful way; for this would disgust intelligent, sensible people. He must not be selfish, overbearing, or domineering. Very many have settled it in their minds that they can not read one in a thousand of


the books that are published; and when the canvasser makes known his business, the door of the heart often closes firmly against him. Hence the great need of doing his work with tact, and in a humble, prayerful spirit. He should be familiar with the word of God, and have words at his command to unfold the precious truth, and to show the great value of the pure reading matter he carries.

Well may every one feel a responsibility in this work. Well may he consider how best to arrest the attention; for his manner of presenting the truth may decide the destiny of a soul. If he makes a favourable impression, his influence may be to that soul a savour of life unto life; and that one person, enlightened in regard to the truth, may enlighten many others. Therefore it is dangerous to do careless work in dealing with minds.

The canvassing work is God's means of reaching many who would not otherwise be impressed with the truth. The work is a good one, the object noble and elevating; and there should be a corresponding dignity of deportment. The canvasser will meet men of varied minds. He will meet those who are ignorant and debased, and who can appreciate nothing that does not bring them money. These will often be abusive; but his good nature should never fail. He should take a cheerful, hopeful view of every perplexity. He will meet those who are bereaved, disheartened, and sore and wounded in spirit. To these he will have many opportunities of speaking kind words, words of courage, hope, and faith. He


may, if he will, be a well-spring to refresh others; but in order to do this, he must himself draw from the Fountain of living truth.

Christ calls for young men who will volunteer to carry the truth to the world. Men of spiritual stamina are wanted, men who are able to find work close at hand, because they are looking for it. The church needs new men to give energy to the ranks, men for the times, able to cope with its errors, men who will inspire with fresh zeal the flagging efforts of the few labourers, men whose hearts are warm with Christian love, and whose hands are eager to go about their Master's work.

Men and women are wanted now who are as true to duty as the needle to the pole,--men and women who will work without having their way smoothed and every obstacle removed.

When there is a continual reliance upon God, a continual practise of self-denial, the workers will not sink into discouragement. They will not worry. They will remember that in every place there are souls of whom the Lord has need, and whom the devil is seeking, that he may bind them fast in the slavery of sin of disregard for the law of God. 

Those who put their trust in God will go forward in faith, nothing doubting. They will work diligently while the day lasts; for "the night


cometh, when no man can work." They will advance in humble dependence upon God, believing His word, and committing themselves without reserve to His guidance.

Improvement in Speech.--Of all the gifts that God has bestowed upon men, none is more precious than the gift of speech. It is a talent that should be diligently improved. If sanctified by the Holy Spirit, it is a power for good. It is with the tongue that we convince and persuade; with it we offer prayer and praise to God; and with it we convey rich thoughts of the Redeemer's love. By a right use of the gift of speech, the canvasser can sow the precious seeds of truth in many hearts.

The canvasser who can speak clearly and distinctly about the merits of the book he is introducing, will find this a great help to him in securing a subscription. He may have opportunity to read a chapter; and by the music of his voice and the emphasis placed on the words, he can make the scene presented stand out as clearly before the mind of the listener as if it could in reality be seen.

The ability to speak clearly and distinctly, in full, round tones, is invaluable in any line of work. This qualification is indispensable in those who desire to become ministers, evangelists, Bible-workers, or canvassers. Those who are planning to enter these lines should be taught to use the


voice in such a way that when they speak to people about the truth, it will make a decided impression for good. The truth must not be marred by being communicated through defective utterance.

Do not, because you are among unbelievers, become careless in your words; for they are taking your measure. Study the instruction given to Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron. They "offered strange fire before the Lord, which He commanded them not." Taking common fire they placed it upon their censers. "And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the Lord spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh Me, and before all the people I will be glorified." Lev. 10:1-3. Canvassers should remember that they are working with the Lord to save souls, and that they are to bring no commonness or cheapness into His sacred service. Let the mind be filled with pure, holy thoughts, and let the words be well chosen. Hinder not the success of your work by uttering light, careless words.

"Young men likewise exhort to be sober-minded. In all things showing thyself a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech, that can not be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may


be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you." Titus 2:6-8.

These words have been recorded for the benefit of every youth. Young men, be sober-minded. Remember that you have been bought with a price, and that you are therefore to glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are His.

Preserving Health.--Those who engage in the service of God have no right to disregard the laws of life and health. We have important responsibilities to fulfil in regard to ourselves. There is much work to be done for God, and He desires us to guard against bringing ourselves into such a condition of health that we shall be unable to help in this work. We should not, by taking on too many burdens, or by indulging any unhealthful habit, unfit ourselves for the service of God. The Lord desires us to be spiritually and physically healthy, that we may exert a pure, wholesome influence. Then He can impart blessings to us to impart to others.

If we desire to be as useful as possible in this life, we must live in accordance with the laws of God, taking proper care of the house we live in. In order that we may be able to help others, we must do all in our power to save ourselves from disease. Denying selfish appetite, we are to regulate all our habits of life in accordance with the light which God has given. Thus we may not only secure physical health, but gain a rich spiritual experience.


Example in Health Reform.--In your association with unbelievers, do not allow yourselves to be swerved from right principles. If you sit at their table, eat temperately, and only of food that will not confuse the mind. Keep clear of intemperance. You can not afford to weaken your mental or physical powers, lest you become unable to discern spiritual things. Keep the mind in such a condition that God can impress it with the precious truths of His word.

Thus you will have an influence upon others. Many try to correct the lives of others by attacking what they regard as wrong habits. They go to those whom they think in error, and point out defects, but do not put forth earnest, tactful effort in directing the mind to true principles. Such a course often fails of securing the desired results. In trying to correct others, we too often arouse their combativeness, and thus do more harm than good. Do not watch others in order to point out their faults or errors. Teach by example. Let your self-denial and your victory over appetite be an illustration of obedience to right principles. Let your life bear witness to the sanctifying, ennobling influence of truth.

Enduring Hardness.--He who in his work meets with trials and temptations, should profit by these experiences, learning to lean more decidedly upon God. He should feel his dependence every moment. No complaint should be cherished in his heart or be uttered by his lips. When successful, he should take no glory to


himself, for his success is due to the working of God's angels upon the heart. And let him remember that both in the time of encouragement and the time of discouragement, the heavenly messengers are always beside him. He should acknowledge the goodness of the Lord, praising Him with cheerfulness.

Whatever your work, dear brethren and sisters, do it for the Master, and do your best. Do not overlook present, golden opportunities and let your life prove a failure, while you sit idly dreaming of ease and success in a work for which God has not fitted you. Do the work that is nearest. Do it, even though it may be amid the perils and hardships of the missionary field. Look at the Waldenses. See what plans they devised, and what hardships they willingly endured that the light of the gospel might shine into benighted minds. Christ laid aside His glory, and came to this earth to suffer for sinners. If we meet with hardships in our work, let us look to Him who is the Author and Finisher of our faith. Then we shall not fail nor be discouraged. We shall endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ. Remember what He says of all true believers: "We are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building." 1 Cor. 3:9.

I have described what canvassers ought to be; and may the Lord open your minds to comprehend this subject in its length and breadth, and


may you realise your duty to represent the character of Christ by your patient courage and steadfast integrity. Remember that you can deny Him by a lax, undecided character. Young men, if you will take with you into the canvassing field principles of righteousness, you will be respected, and many will believe the truth you advocate, because your daily life will be a bright light which gives light to all that are in the house. Even your enemies, though they may war against your doctrines, will respect you; and your simple words will have a power that will carry conviction of hearts.

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