The Place of Literature Ministry

The important work of the colportuer.

By BERNARD BELTON, Publishing Department Secretary, North England Conference

Some years ago a young Methodist Sunday school teacher in the north left home and went to sea as an employee of the Marconi Company. He spent his spare time examining the Bible, gradually finding the Sabbath question of absorb­ing interest, although at the time he was not aware of any particular controversy over this issue. So interested did he become that he searched various books for knowledge.

In due time his ship put in at Cape Town, South Africa. One day a bundle of old magazines was put on board for the officers and men. Two magazines came into the young man's hands. The editorial of one of these attracted his attention, for it dealt with the matter so long troubling him. This magazine was the Signs of the Times, published in South Africa. The editorial was so con­vincing that he began to recognize the seventh-day Sabbath, without making an all-out stand, how­ever. Later, arriving home on leave, he waved the Signs magazine before his parents, saying, "I told you so ; here is the evidence!"

Force of circumstances then brought him to Cal­cutta, India, where he prayed earnestly that if the seventh day was to be kept as the Sabbath, he might somehow meet people of like belief, if there were such anywhere. So he searched the city from church to church,, but without avail. One morn­ing a native servant handed him the daily paper and his eye caught an insertion advertising the first of a series of lectures on Bible prophecy. The meetings were conducted by two Seventh-day Ad­ventist evangelists. He attended, accepted their instruction, and joined the church.

 Although he lost touch with the believers ashore when his ship sailed for the Middle East, he was able, by the help of God, to observe the Sabbath as the one Adventist on board. After about a year in these circumstances he joined a vessel bound for England. On the way home he became convinced that he was soon to part company with his sea­faring life, but for what reason he could not then see.

While on leave he interviewed his employers for the purpose of securing official sanction of his having the Sabbath free, but after prolonged con­sideration they found it impossible to grant his request. So he resigned his position as chief radio officer.

This made him eligible to be called up under the Military Service Act, and it was not long before he was required to appear before the tri­bunal in Newcastle, where one of our pastors gave evidence for him as witness. The ruling authority was so favorably impressed by the young officer's sincerity and his willingness to leave a reserved occupation on religious grounds that a verdict of unconditional exemption was returned.

About this time the publishing committee had decided that, owing to the paper shortage, no more recruits to the colporteur work could be enlisted. However, when this young radio officer made application and his remarkable story became known, it was unanimously agreed that God had worked wonders to bring into His service a re­cruit of His own choosing. So it came about that our brother attended the colporteurs' con­ference, where he commenced training for the literature ministry. He was then associated with a man of long experience, and together they have been blessed with good success in circulating our full-message book The Bible Speaks.

As we recount the sequence of providences in the life of this young radio officer and his call to the work of God at a time when ordinary recruiting has ceased, we see how remarkably God can take matters into His own hands and supply us with men from sources outside our on planning. Thus we are led to appreciate once again the great importance and place of the literature ministry.

In Conjunction With Public Evangelism

That article in the Signs of the Times so con­vinced the young man that he could stand before unbelievers and say with great assurance, "Here is the evidence!" But he then needed further instruction not only on the Sabbath doctrine itself but on the other advent truths. So he was provi­dentially led to the meetings of the evangelist, and through these he was brought fully into the mes­sage. Surely this is the ideal procedure—first the printed page, then the evangelist to bring to frui­tion the seed sown. Here in our own conference this course is frequently followed.

Apart From Public Evangelism

War conditions seem to be bringing us to the place where circumstances are largely dictating our evangelistic program. Bound by circum­stances! Halls, houses, and congregations are difficult to secure. How cheering, therefore, is the assurance in 2 Timothy 2:9, "The Word of God is not bound"!

In what way, then, will the message go to the people everywhere? Isaiah 52:7 gives us the answer: "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace." Even though hindered by re­strictions connected with public preaching, the truth must be carried to its place of conquest. The aggressive principle is necessary, and well does the literature ministry fulfill this requirement. At such a time as this heaven's eulogy through the prophet surely applies to each faithful colporteur­evangelist as he daily pursues his saving mission—"How beautiful ... are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings."

Such a work as this leads our colporteurs to all classes of the community. To illustrate, for some months one of our colporteurs has been selling The Bible Speaks in many hotels. He reports placing more than a thousand in such unusual places already. One proprietor, when ordering a leather copy, related how a friend in another hotel is studying a page a day in the copy he pur­chased. Then he places the book in a glass-fronted cupboard standing near the counter in the bar. Time and time again, as the customers stand drinking at the counter, that copy of The Bible Speaks is taken out and the questions with their Bible answers are discussed with lively interest! Thus the gospel message reaches many who are altogether outside the circles of ordinary religious activity.

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By BERNARD BELTON, Publishing Department Secretary, North England Conference

May 1945

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