Of all people, Seventh-day Adventists should be the most careful of what they present orally or publish in written form. Purity, sincerity, simplicity, and, above all, honesty, should characterize every word. "Provide things honest in the sight of all men." Rom. 12:17. A false statement or an exaggeration does not gain merit because it comes from the pulpit or from the religious press. According to John's word, recorded in Revelation, "whosoever loveth or maketh a lie" will be outside the eternal city.
There was a time, early in the history of this movement, when it was taken as conclusive proof of the veracity of a statement if someone could say, "I read it in one of our papers," or "I heard a worker say it." Surely this should still be the high regard merited by all reports that appear in print or that are spoken orally by representatives of this message. We claim to be the people who have the truth. We cannot strengthen our position by exaggerations, or make our message more forceful by statements that are not wholly honest.
Statements made in public meetings, or reports given in our papers, should never need to be discounted. Not long ago I was startled to hear a leading worker say, "Yes, it is an interesting report, but I had to discount it somewhat when I saw who wrote it." He knew the usual fault of the one responsible for the report. Another time I read an article giving an account of a mission experience. It was interesting reading, but those of us who knew the facts were surprised to see to what extent the writer had exaggerated and added to the experiences.
We live in a day when the sensational is in vogue. Newspapers sell because of their sensational headlines. People want to see and hear startling things. Advertisers recognize this, and endeavor to put something sensational and surprising on the billboards. Whether the truth is told by what is displayed is a question of little consideration with them.
Our workers who stand before the public and write reports for our people to read wish, of course, to draw a crowd and to hold their interest. They recognize that if they get a hearing or keep an interest, they must meet keen competition. Ordinary reports may fail. Therefore, the temptation is to add a touch of the sensational, even though this calls for some exaggeration. Perhaps it is thought that the end justifies the means. But when once we begin, how easy it is to cross the line of truth into the field of exaggeration.
As workers in the cause of God, we need to speak the truth. Any report or article that violates truthfulness in order to gain a hearing will do more damage than good, and had better be discarded. We cannot criticize the editorial staffs of our papers, for they take for granted that the material sent in for publication is. honestly written. Neither can we blame our people who read and believe what appears in print in our papers. But the impression is growing that exaggerated reports are becoming more and more common in the pulpit and in print. This is sure to react, causing a lack of confidence on the part of the laity, and a. decrease in financial support by our churches.
God is doing wonderful things. Providential openings for our work are common. Miracles are taking place in the various fields of the world. A truthful account of the mighty power of God as seen in the lives of redeemed men and women, and in the onward sweep of this message, is startling enough to move our constituency to concerted action. Honest reports will bring the needed financial support and whole-hearted cooperation. Let us -be truthful in all that we speak and write, and then our people will believe us, and God can bless us by answering our appeals for help.