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Manual for Canvassers

The intelligent, God-fearing, truth-loving canvasser should be respected for he occupies a position equal to that of the gospel minister. Many of our young ministers and those who are fitting for the ministry would, if truly converted, do much good by working in the canvassing field. And by meeting the people and presenting to them our publications, they would gain an experience which they can not gain by simply preaching. As they went from house to house, they could converse with the people, carrying with them the fragrance of Christ's life. In thus endeavouring to bless others, they would themselves be blessed; they would obtain an experience in faith; their knowledge of the Scriptures would greatly increase; and they would be constantly learning how to win souls for Christ.

All our ministers should feel free to carry with them books to dispose of wherever they go. Wherever a minister goes, he can leave a book in the family where he stays, either selling it or giving it to them. Much of this work was done in the early history of the message. Ministers acted as colporteurs, using the means obtained from the sale of the books to help in the advancement of the work in places where help was needed. These can speak intelligently in regard to this method of work; for they have had an experience in this line.

Let none think that it belittles a minister of the gospel to engage in canvassing as a means


of carrying truth to the people. In doing this work he is labouring in the same manner as did the apostle Paul, who says: "Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews; and how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." Acts 20:18-21. The eloquent Paul, to whom God manifested Himself in a wonderful manner, went from house to house in all humility of mind, and with many tears and temptations.

All who desire opportunity for true ministry, and who will give themselves unreservedly to God, will find in the canvassing work, opportunities to speak upon many things pertaining to the future, immortal life. The experience thus gained will be of the greatest value to those who are fitting themselves for the ministry. It is the accompaniment of the Holy Spirit of God that prepares workers, both men and women, to become pastors to the flock of God. As they cherish the thought that Christ is their Companion, a holy awe, a sacred joy will be felt by them amid all their trying experiences and all their tests. They will learn how to pray as they work. They will be educated in patience, kindness, affability, and helpfulness. They will practise true, Christian


courtesy, bearing in mind that Christ, their Companion, can not approve of harsh, unkind words or feelings. Their words will be purified. The power of speech will be regarded as a precious talent, lent them to do a high and holy work. The human agent will learn how to represent the divine Companion with whom he is associated. To that unseen, holy One he will show respect and reverence, because he is wearing His yoke, and is learning His pure, holy ways. Those who have faith in this divine Attendant will develop. They will be gifted with power to clothe the message of truth with a sacred beauty.

There are some who are adapted to the work of the colporteur, and who can accomplish more in this line than by preaching. If the Spirit of Christ dwells in their hearts, they will find opportunity to present His word to others, and to direct minds to the special truths for this time. Men suited to this work undertake it; but some injudicious minister flatters them that their gifts should be employed in preaching instead of in the work of the colporteur. Thus they are influenced to get a license to preach; and the very ones who might have been trained to make good missionaries to visit families at their homes, to talk and pray with them, are turned away from a work for which they are fitted, to make poor ministers; and the field where so much labour is needed, and where so much good might be accomplished, is neglected.

The preaching of the word is a means by which the Lord has ordained that His warning


message shall be given to the world. In the Scriptures the faithful teacher is represented as a shepherd to the flock of God. He is to be respected, and his work appreciated. Genuine medical missionary work is bound up with the ministry, and the canvassing work is to be a part both of the medical missionary work and of the ministry. To those who are engaged in this work I would say: As you visit the people, tell them that you are a gospel worker, and that you love the Lord. Do not seek a home in a hotel, but stay at a private house, and become acquainted with the family. Christ was sowing the seeds of truth wherever He was, and as His followers you can witness for the Master, doing a most precious work in fireside labour. In thus coming close to the people, you will often find those who are sick and discouraged. If you are pressing close to the side of Christ, wearing His yoke, you will daily learn of Him how to carry messages of peace and comfort to the sorrowing and disappointed, the sad and broken-hearted. You can point the discouraged ones to the word of God, and take the sick to the Lord in prayer. As you pray, speak to Christ as you would to a trusted, much-loved friend. Maintain a sweet, free, pleasant dignity, as a child of God. This will be recognised.

Canvassers should be able to give instruction in regard to the treatment of the sick. They should learn the simple methods of hygienic treatment. Thus they may work as medical missionaries, ministering to the souls and the bodies of


the suffering. This work should now be going forward in all parts of the world. Thus multitudes might be blessed by the prayers and instruction of God's servants.

We need to realise the importance of the canvassing work as one great means of finding out those who are in peril, and bringing them to Christ. Canvassers should never be prohibited from speaking of the love of Christ, from telling their experience in their service for the Master. They should be free to speak or to pray with those who are awakened. The simple story of Christ's love for man will open doors for them, even to the homes of unbelievers.

As the canvasser visits the people at their homes, he will often have opportunity to read to them from the Bible or from books that teach the truth. When he discovers those who are searching for truth he can hold Bible-readings with them. These Bible-readings are just what the people need. God will use in His service those who thus show a deep interest in perishing souls. Through them He will impart light to those who are ready to receive instruction.

Some who labour in the canvassing field have a zeal that is not according to knowledge. Because of their lack of wisdom, because they have been so much inclined to act the minister and theologian, it has been almost a necessity to place restrictions upon our canvassers. When the Lord's voice calls, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" the divine Spirit puts it into hearts to respond, "Here am I; send me." Isa. 6:8.


But bear in mind that the live coal from the altar must first touch your lips and cleanse you from all impurity. Then the words you speak will be wise and holy words. Then you will have wisdom to know what to say and what to leave unsaid. You will not try to reveal your smartness as theologians. You will be careful not to arouse a combative spirit or excite prejudice by introducing controverted points of doctrine. You will find enough to talk about that will not excite opposition, but that will open the heart to desire a deeper knowledge of God's word.

The Lord desires you to be soul-winners; therefore, while you should not force doctrinal points upon the people, you should "be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear." 1 Peter 3:15. Why fear?-- Fear lest your words should savour of self-importance, lest unadvised words be spoken, lest the words and manner should not be after Christ's likeness. Connect firmly with Christ, and present the truth as it is in Him. Work as Paul worked. Wherever he was, whether before scowling Pharisee or Roman authority, rich or poor, learned or ignorant, the cripple at Lystra or the convicted sinners in the Macedonian dungeon, he lifted up Christ as the One who hates sin and loves the sinner, the One who bore our sins that He might impart to us His righteousness.

Hearts can not fail to be touched by the story of the atonement. As you learn the meekness and lowliness of Christ, you will know what you


should say to the people; for the Holy Spirit will tell you what words to speak. Those who realise the necessity of keeping the heart under the control of the Holy Spirit, will be enabled to sow seed that will spring up unto eternal life. This is the work of the evangelistic canvasser.

The Canvasser and Bible Work.--Letters have been received by me making inquiries in regard to the duties of the canvasser. Some have said that in visiting the people they have found favourable opportunities for presenting the truth for this time, and have almost been forced into giving Bible-readings. These opportunities they could not conscientiously neglect. On the other hand, letters come saying that our canvassers are neglecting their work in order to give Bible-readings upon doctrinal subjects, and that the prejudice aroused by these readings has made it difficult for the canvasser to deliver his books; and some are asking counsel in regard to these matters.

We think that there is truth in both the statements,--that canvassers find favourable opportunities for leading the people to a better understanding of the Bible, and that, because of the way in which they meet these opportunities, prejudice is aroused, and the work hindered. When the canvasser enters upon his work, he should not allow himself to be diverted, but should intelligently keep to the point with all diligence. And yet while he is faithful in his canvassing, he should not neglect opportunities to help those


who are seeking for light and who need the consolation of the Scriptures. If the canvasser walks with God, if he prays for heavenly wisdom that he may do good and only good in his labour, he will be quick to discern the needs of those with whom he comes in contact. He will make the most of his opportunities to draw souls to Christ, not dwelling upon doctrinal subjects, but upon the love of God, upon His mercy and goodness in the plan of salvation. In the spirit of Christ he will be ready to speak a word in season to him that is weary.

The great need of the soul is to know God and Jesus Christ, whom He has sent. The Bible abounds in practical lessons, which the canvasser may safely present. If he can by this means impart a knowledge of practical religion, he will be feeding the people, who need just such precious food.

The claims of God are to be ever before us. We should never forget that we are to give an account for the deeds done in the body. Weighted with this thought, canvassers will watch for souls, and their prayer will go forth from unfeigned lips for wisdom to speak a word in season to those in need of help. Such workers will continually be elevating and purifying the soul through obedience to the truth. They will have a true sense of the value of the soul, and will make the most of every opportunity to make known the riches of the grace of Christ. Let the canvasser go forth with the prayer upon his lips, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?"


Let him labour as in the sight of God, and in the presence of heavenly angels; let him desire in all things to be approved by God; and his work will not be fruitless.

We need far less controversy, and far more presentation of Christ. Our Redeemer is the centre of all our faith and hope. Those who can present His matchless love, and inspire hearts to give Him their best and holiest affections, are doing work that is great and holy. By diligence in canvassing, by faithfully presenting to the people the cross of Calvary, the canvasser doubles his usefulness.

But while we present these methods of work, we can not lay out an undeviating line for every one to follow. Circumstances alter cases. God will impress those who are longing for guidance. He will say to His human agent, "Speak to this one or that one of the love of Jesus." No sooner is the name of Jesus mentioned in love and tenderness than angels of God draw near, to soften and subdue the heart. {MC 37.2}
Often doctrinal subjects are presented with no special effect; for men expect others to press upon them their doctrines; but when the matchless love of Christ is dwelt upon, His grace impresses the heart. There are many who are sincerely seeking for light, who know not what they must do to be saved. O, tell them of the love of God, of the sacrifice made on Calvary's cross to save the perishing! Tell them to place their will on the side of God's will; and "if any man


will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God." John 7:17.

No one can be a successful soul-winner till he himself has settled the question of surrender to God. We are individually to put on the Lord Jesus Christ. To each one of us He must become wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. When our faith lays hold upon Christ as our personal Saviour, we shall place Him before others in a new light. And when the people behold Christ as He is, they will not wrangle over doctrines; they will flee to Him for pardon, purity, and eternal life.

The difficulty most to be dreaded is that the canvasser who meets these inquiring souls has not himself been converted; that he does not himself know by experience the love of Christ which passes knowledge. If he himself has not this knowledge, how can he tell others the precious old, old story? The people need to be taught the very essence of true faith, the way to accept Christ and to confide in Him as their personal Saviour. They need to know how they may follow His steps whithersoever He goes. Let the feet of the worker follow step by step the footprints of Jesus, and mark out no other way in which to proceed heavenward.

When the soul has been brought to Christ through this personal labour, leave the surrendered, humbled heart for God to work with; let God urge upon him just such service as He sees fit. God has promised that His grace shall be sufficient for every one who will come unto Him.


Those who surrender to Jesus, who open the door of the heart and invite Him in, will be in safe keeping. He says, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." John 14:6. Possessing Jesus, they will possess truth. They will be complete in Him.

Many professed Christians have broken away from Christ, the great centre, and they make themselves a centre; but if they would be successful in attracting others to the Saviour, they must themselves flee back to Him, and realise their utter dependence upon His grace. Satan has tried to the uttermost to sever the chain that unites men to God; he desires to bind their souls to his own car, and make them slaves in his service; but we are to work against him, and draw men to the Redeemer.

Let canvassers be faithful students, learning how to be most successful. And while they are thus employed, let them keep their eyes and ears and understanding open to receive the wisdom from God, that they may know how to help those who are perishing for lack of a knowledge of Christ. Let every worker concentrate his energies and use his powers for the highest of all service,-- to recover men from the snare of Satan and bind them to God, making the chain of dependence through Jesus Christ fast to the throne encircled with the rainbow of promise.

Men and women are wandering in the mist and fog of error. They want to know what is truth.


Tell them, not in high-flown language, but with the simplicity of the children of God.

Satan is on your track. He is an artful opponent, and the malignant spirit which you meet in your work is inspired by him. Those whom he controls echo his words. If the veil could be rent away from their eyes, those thus worked would see Satan plying all his arts to win them from the truth. In rescuing souls from his devices, far more will be accomplished by Christlike, humble prayer than by many words without prayer.

The workers should keep the soul constantly uplifted to God in prayer. They are never alone. If they have faith in God, if they realise that to them is committed the work of giving to the people light on Bible subjects, they constantly enjoy the companionship of Christ. {MC 40.2}
The Lord Jesus standing by the side of the canvassers, walking with them, is the chief worker. If we recognise Christ as the One who is with us to prepare the way, the Holy Spirit by our side will make impressions in just the lines needed.

A Precious Experience.--He who takes up the work of canvassing as he should, must be both an educator and a student. While he tries to teach others, he himself must learn to do the work of an evangelist. As canvassers go forth into the field with humble hearts, full of earnest


activity, they will find many opportunities to speak a word in season to souls ready to die in discouragement. After labouring for these needy ones, they will be able to say, "Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord." Eph. 5:8. As they see the sinful course of others, they can say, "Such were some of you; but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." 1 Cor. 6:11.

Those who work for God will meet with discouragement; but the promise is always theirs, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." Matt. 28:20. God will give a most wonderful experience to those who will say, "I believe Thy promise; I will not fail nor become discouraged."

Reporting.--Let those who gain such an experience in working for the Lord write an account of it for our papers, that others may be encouraged. Let the canvasser tell of the joy and blessing he has received in his ministry as an evangelist. These reports should find a place in our papers; for they are far-reaching in their influence. They will be as sweet fragrance in the church, a savour of life unto life. Thus it is seen that God works with those who cooperate with Him. "Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost."

Canvassing a Preparation for the Ministry.-- There are more difficulties in this work than in


some other branches of business; but the lessons learned, the tact and discipline acquired, will fit you for other fields of usefulness, where you can minister to souls. Those who poorly learn their lesson, and are careless and abrupt in approaching persons, would show the same want of tact and skill in dealing with minds, should they enter the ministry.

Some men whom God was calling to the work of the ministry have entered the field as canvassers. I have been instructed that this is an excellent preparation, if their object is to disseminate light, to bring the truth revealed in God's word directly to the home circle. In conversation the way will frequently be opened to speak of the religion of the Bible. If the work is taken hold of as it should be, families will be visited, the workers will manifest Christian tenderness and love for souls, and great good will be the result. This would be an excellent experience for those who have the ministry in view.

Missionary work--introducing our publications into families, conversing and praying with and for them--is a work that will educate men and women to do pastoral labour.

In evangelistic canvassing, young men may become better prepared for ministerial labour than by spending many years in school. Those who are fitting for the ministry can engage in no other occupation that will give them so large an experience as will the canvassing work.


But many are attracted into the canvassing work to sell books and pictures that do not express our faith, and do not give light to the purchaser. They are induced to do this because the financial prospects are more flattering than those that can be offered them as licentiates. These persons are obtaining no special fitness for the gospel ministry. They are not gaining that experience which would fit them for the work. They are not learning to bear the burden of souls and daily obtaining a knowledge of the most successful way of winning people to the truth. They are losing time and opportunities.

These men are frequently turned aside from the convictions of the Spirit of God, and receive a worldly stamp of character, forgetting how much they owe to the Lord, who gave His life for them. They use their powers for their own selfish interests, and refuse to labour in the vineyard of the Lord.

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