It has been my privilege to become personally acquainted with more than one hundred ministers of other denominations during my active connection with our organized work. This acquaintance began during my first summer's experience in the colporteur work, when I was seventeen years of age. I began one morning to work in a small town in the western part of Iowa. I soon learned that there was one church in town and that the minister lived next door to the church.
I was just a timid lad, having spent most of my time on the farm, and I greatly dreaded meeting the minister. I soon decided to call on all other homes, and then perhaps miss the home of the minister. At noon I went out to a grove at the edge of town, where I ate my lunch and then had prayer for divine guidance and blessing. While I was praying a voice said to me, "Go and see the minister the first thing." The instruction was so definite and impressive that I answered, "Lord, I will do it," and went directly to his home. I was cordially invited in, and proceeded to present the merits of the book I was selling. When I was nearly through he said, "I think that is a good book, but I have spent my full allowance for books this year and cannot take any more."
My response was, "Since you recognize it as a good book, perhaps you would be willing to write a paragraph or two that might encourage others who are able to take it to do so." To this he readily agreed, and wrote out a good recommendation. As he handed it to me, he asked with which church I was connected. When I frankly told him, I noticed that he was very much surprised and evidently disappointed. Recognizing my youthful inexperience, he proceeded to tell me what he regarded as the outstanding faults and errors in the teaching of the Seventh-day Adventists. He said that we placed a great deal of emphasis on the Sabbath and the law and baptism, and missed the great things in the plan of salvation. I tried to listen with respectful attention, but as soon as I had opportunity, I said, "I presume you feel toward Seventh-day Adventists much as Jesus did toward many of the Jews, when He told them they were very particular about such items as paying tithe, even on small garden produce, but that they had neglected more important duties."
"That's it exactly," he said.
I asked him, "Then why not do as Jesus did when He said, 'These ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone' ?" He admitted that he had never thought of it in that light before. That encouraged me to say, "My brother, I believe in and do keep the seventh day as the Sabbath; I believe in, and have been baptized by, immersion. I do not believe that I am going to be saved because I believe and do these things, but I am sure that if I am saved in the kingdom of God, it will be because I have walked in the light that has come to me."
To this he readily said, "You are absolutely right in that." He then suggested that we have prayer together, and when we rose from our knees, we were both wiping away the tears, for God had melted our hearts, and we could feel a real bond of Christian fellowship. Then to my surprise he said, "A short time ago, I began paying tithe myself. You are in the Lord's work, and sometime this summer you will be needing some money. I want you to have what tithe money I have on hand." Against my. protest he emptied all that he had in his tithe box into my pocket. Space will not permit telling of the other ways in which that Methodist minister helped me that summer.
Now I will pass over the years to the time when my wife and I were called to conduct an evangelistic effort in a beautiful little city in British Columbia. I was warned by many that it was a city of extreme prejudice toward Seventh-day Adventists. We had a neat little church building, but the membership had almost disappeared. We advertised as best we know how, but could not get an attendance from the public. Just at that time, as I was praying and studying, my eyes fell for the first time on the following passage in the old volume of Gospel Workers:
"When our laborers enter a new field, they should seek to become acquainted with the pastors of the several churches in the place. Much has been lost by neglecting to do this. If our ministers show themselves friendly and sociable, and do not act as though they were ashamed of the message they bear, it will have an excellent effect, and may give these pastors and their congregations favorable impressions of the truth. At any rate, it is right to give them a chance to be kind and favorable if they will." —Page 299.
I took this instruction to heart and discontinued the public meetings, and for several months carried on a systematic campaign of visiting the people in their homes, making a special effort to become acquainted with all the ministers and church leaders. Nearly all denominations were represented. The distribution of temperance and religious liberty literature was the occasion of my first visits. At the same time my wife united with the W. C. T. U. group of women who were leading out in what was called the Sunshine Band. It was their duty to find and help the needy, and this work was financed by the city funds.
When we began meetings the second time the house was full and the interest continued. At various times ministers of the other churches came to the meetings. As a result, the church membership grew from a few discouraged souls to a strong and active church.
Recent experiences in Michigan emphasize the truth of the words in that quotation from Gospel Workers. A short time after I came to my present field of labor in the central part of the State, I was invited to attend the local ministerial association meeting. I did so, although I had not met any of the members. Shortly after the meeting opened, the secretary quoted from a letter he had received from the secretary of a similar organization in the eastern part of the State, where I had labored for four years. The letter stated that while I was a member of their association I not only had been a good promoter of my own church but had been more than willing to do my full share in any work for the community as a whole, and there were other words of rather extravagant praise. Of course, I received a royal welcome here.
Since then the county ministerial association has asked me to act as the chairman of the temperance committee, and it has been my lot to plan for and supervise temperance programs in many churches of various denominations in the county. I have had wonderful co-operation from the ministers and leading members and from many influential citizens of the county. In all this work I have been impressed by the words found in the book previously quoted :
"There are many of these [precious truths of God's Word] which are dear to all Christians. Here is common ground, upon which we can meet the people of other denominations ; and in becoming acquainted with them, we should dwell mostly upon topics in which all feel an interest, and which will not lead directly and pointedly to the subjects of clisagreernents."—Page 299.