It is the minister's work, and should be his life and joy, to point his fellow men to the Lamb of God as their Saviour from sin. It is his responsibility to use any proper means to preach this gospel of Christ. He may proclaim it from the desk, or he may herald the good news over the air by means of the radio. He may choose to use his pen in preaching, or he may scatter the printed page written by others.
Some ministers of other churches seem to feel that it is their definite responsibility to keep their members from reading our literature. Often they become much worried when they find them studying our books, papers, or tracts. Sometimes when a colporteur visits the members, these ministers preach a sermon warning their flock against the doctrines of Adventism, advising them to refuse to take the books when the bookrnan returns to their homes. If perchance the books may have been delivered before they have time to sound the alarm, they may even suggest that the books be burned.
A priest who had charge of a seminary where young men were being trained for the priesthood told one of our colporteurs that he must not distribute any literature among the students in his school. "Your paper is not a bad paper," he said, "but it would not be wise for me to let these young students read it. They might be turned from the straight path."
Another minister in speaking of our books said: "Their books are like the lice and frogs of Egypt, found on every shelf, and in every crack and crevice of the houses wherever I preach. There is little remedy for one who reads these books."
John Hnatyshyn, selling "The Great Controversy" across the sea, called on the director of another mission. This man realized the power within the book. Note his remarks:
"I would not accept your book for my school even as a gift. I know it is a good book and that the contents are excellent. But tell me, what is your real object in selling that book? I am acquainted with you Adventists, and you are a very cunning people. That book looks good, and no doubt the instruction it contains is good. But in some place there will be an invitation to read more of your literature. Your main object in selling this book is to win the confidence of the public, so that they will desire to read more of your books. You are using this as an entering wedge into the hearts of the people.
"I have observed you people in the United States. In your sanitariums and restaurants you give the very best service. The treatments given are unexcelled. But there is always a pile of literature in some conspicuous place with a well-worded invitation, 'Take one and read it at your leisure.'"
Surely if ministers of other churches are so fearful of Adventist literature, we ought to be awake to its influence and possibilities. We often hear it said that thirty to fifty per cent of our members come into the message through reading. Any minister today would hesitate to hold an effort or try to carry on his soul-saving work without some kind of literature. How would you feel if you could get no more literature to assist you in your work ? You would feel crippled and handicapped, and indeed you would be.
Adventist literature ministry is not of man's devising but was given to us by God. He has advised us to scatter the literature "like the leaves of autumn." He promises that though it may lie unread for a time, the day will come when it will be read and Will accomplish the purpose for which it was sent. The following instruction has been given us through the Spirit of prophecy:
"Though the minister may faithfully present the message, the people are not able to retain it all. The printed page therefore is essential, not only in awakening them to the importance of the truth for this time, but in rooting and grounding them in the truth, and establishing them against deceptive error. Papers and books are the Lord's means of keeping the message for this time continually before the people. In enlightening and confirming souls in the truth, the publications will do a far greater work than can be accomplished by the ministry of the Word alone. The silent messengers that are placed in the homes of the people through the work of the canvasser, will strengthen the gospel ministry in every way ; for the Holy Spirit will impress minds as they read the books, just as He impresses the minds of those who listen to the preaching of the Word."—"Testimonies," Vol. VI, pp. 315, 316.
The power of books is illustrated by the story of the Democrat in the State of Georgia who had twelve sons. "Eleven of them," he said, "are good Democrats, but the twelfth one—he got to reading." The minister who educates his converts to read books, papers, and tracts, need not worry about their slipping away or growing cold. The literature which helps win people to the truth will keep their hearts glowing in the love of the message. Many who are baptized at the close of a series of meetings have a general idea of the fundamentals of truth, but their ideas are often rather hazy. questions arise in their minds. They cannot remember all the evangelist has said, and some things he has said they have distorted.
By generously using our literature, the minister may preach the same sermons, and many more, to them in the quietness of their homes. Many points which the worker covered very briefly may be studied in detail. The worker may not have time to visit the new members as often as he feels he should. But using literature, he can double his calls, increase his working hours, and multiply his sermons. He can really be working while he sleeps, for while he slumbers, they may be reading some book, paper, or tract that he has recommended to them.
Often those new in the truth move to some section in which they do not have church fellowship. If they have been taught to read our literature, they may still have the best of sermons every Sabbath and every other day of the week. Young people should be encouraged to read the Instructor, the Missionary Volunteer Reading Course books, and the wealth of books prepared for them. It is difficult to be a good Adventist without reading the Review and Herald. The church paper will be a wonderful blessing to those new in the truth. On every page of the Testimonies new members will find messages which seem to have been written for them.
Our ministers usually do not stay long in one place. They must go on to conduct efforts in other places. Their converts may be left without a pastor, or a new minister may come in. If these new members have not formed the habit of reading and study, there is danger that they may become discouraged and drift away.
It tears at the heart of a worker to leave those new in the truth without a shepherd. But if they have been taught to read and study, he will need have little fear for them. They may review the same arguments which convinced them of the truth. Thus they will keep in touch with the advent movement in all the world, and the fires lighted in their hearts will be kept aglow.