The Necessity of Organized Study

Our multiplied duties tend to reduce study to the barest minimum.

By W. L. EMMERSON, Editor, British Present Truth

In his book, "Preparing to Preach," D. R. Breed says: "The soil of the mind is very much like the soil of the fields. It will certainly be exhausted in time except it be frequently fertilized." The necessary fertilizer consists of new ideas and thoughts, and these come through personal study and reading. Mrs. E. G. White gives the urgent counsel: "Men of God must be diligent in study, ear­nest in the acquirement of knowledge, never wasting an hour."

These two statements are worthy of con­sideration, because the ever-present danger is that a multiplicity of duties and respon­sibilities so often tends to reduce study to a bare minimum. The worker's reading should not be confined solely to that which is required for immediate sermon or article preparation. Wide reading gives breadth of outlook, fresh­ness of thought, and virility of presentation. Valuable facts and illustrations are often found in the most unexpected places. So the worker will read, in addition to his study of the Bible and the Spirit of prophecy:

I. Theological literature—devotional, doctrinal, and expository-1 o enlarge his comprehension of the fundamental principles of the gospel.

a. Christian evidences, for scientific confirmation of the accuracy of the Bible.

b. History, or illustrations of prophetic fulfill­ment.

c. Biography, for examples of Christianity in action.

d. Current literature, including newspapers, maga­zines, and books, for a knowledge of the trend of world events and contemporary thought, that this message may he "meat in due season." And of course, a minister should read our leading denomi­national papers, including THE MINISTRY. the Re­view, etc., as well as the annual Ministerial Reading Course.

e. Classics and poetry, for language and beauty of expression

f. Books on homiletics, for the improvement of his preaching.

g. Books of travel in Bible lands, for material illustrative of the Sacred Record.

With these various classes I cannot, of course, deal in detail, but a few recommenda­tions on point 5, "Current literature," may be of help. ( s) Do not make a habit of reading or quoting from papers which are noted for their sensational method of presentation, (2)

Presentation at Editors' Council, Washington, D.C., August, 1939.

Subscribe, if possible, for one of the weekly journals which gathers the best out of the week's papers. (3) Keep in close touch with other religions by reading their respective organs. (4) Scan the book reviews in all the papers you read to find names of books which may provide you with facts or illustra­tive matter.

If the worker were to purchase all the literature he needed, it would, of course, cost a small fortune, but fortunately there are facilities available nowadays which permit the widest range of study at little expense. There is, first, the local library, which is always ready to accept suggestions for new books or magazines. Then there are theological li­braries, lending libraries, and renting libraries in most countries, as well as secondhand book­stores at which old books may be bought at very low prices.

Gathering and Preserving Notes

As the worker must rely largely upon bor­rowed books and journals for most of his reading, it is important that he should have an adequate system of notemaking, so that he may gather and preserve the cream of what he reads. The memory retains but a small proportion of what is read, and that only for a short time. The rule must there­fore be that of Dickens' famous character, in "Dombey and Son," "When found, make a note of."

Never read without pen and note paper at hand. Or, if you are reading on a train or a bus, have a slip of paper in the book and jot down important paragraphs, so that when you get home, you can make your notes. The loose-leaf system should be used, as notes mul­tiply rapidly, and the accumulated information becomes difficult of access.

A young worker would do well at the very beginning of his experience to decide on a fixed size for his note sheets, and a standard file for preserving them. He should stick to this throughout, so that although his collection of notes may grow to large proportions, they will never become unwieldy or untidy. I present a brief outline of the system I have used for eighteen years. The notes I have taken all these years are as accessible to me now as when I started taking them. All notes are written on octavo sheets (size 8 x 5 inches), writing parallel to the long sides. Small cards do not provide enough space, and their thickness makes them cumbersome.

Every book read is given an alphabetic abbreviation, usually the initials of the first three words, that is, "Bible Comes Alive" is called BCA. "Roman Catholics and Freedom" is RCF. These letters form a symbol which is put on the top left-hand corner of every sheet, together with the page in the book from which the note is taken, as BCA so; RCF 225. This saves writing out the name of the book on every sheet, and preserves for all time the source of every scrap of information. An alphabetic index of book abbreviations is kept at the front of the first file, so that the name Os the book, author, date, and publisher can quickly be looked up at any time.

A separate sheet is used for every different subject, and when a book is tead, the notes are sorted and distributed through the tiles where most appropriate. The notes may take the form of a precis of a general argument or exact verbatim, as may be needed. The notes sheets are then punched, or perforated, and filed in arch files with a dust cover. These files can be multiplied to any extent, and are always clean, compact, and tidy.

The method of classification will vary ac­cording to individual preference. I use a combination of the books of the Bible and individual subjects, so that a note on Genesis Io:io that is not definitely related to a particu­lar doctrine would be filed under "G," or Genesis, while a note on the second advent would be filed under this subject heading.

Clippings or cuttings from papers and maga­zines can be pasted on the same size sheets and put into the same file, if necessary several sheets being used for one clipping. Or if one has a large number of clippings, a filing cabinet may be used, the headings of which are exactly the same as those in the note file. A glance at the corresponding section in each file will then supply all the available material on any subject.

I have taken the system a step farther by using the same standard sheet for sermon notes, Sabbath school lesson notes, chapel talks, etc., so that quotations taken out of my file for sermon use are exactly the same size as my sermon notes; and conversely the sermon notes, after being used, can be filed for future ref­erence, along with other note material, in standard files.

This system may be adapted to personal needs, or a different system may be preferred, but I would urge that young workers especially start with as all-inclusive a system as possible, and stick to it. It will save time and energy, and will prove invaluable.


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By W. L. EMMERSON, Editor, British Present Truth

January 1940

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