In the forthcoming book Footprints of the Pioneers by Arthur W. Spalding, appears the following statement concerning the education of Mrs. E. G. White after the accident in her girlhood which made her a semi-invalid unable to pursue her school studies: "Henceforth she was the pupil of the Most High, improving indeed her every talent, and acquiring by steady application to reading, observation, study, and association, an education that reached beyond the Veil, but nevermore, after the first futile attempts, to attend man's schools."
That is a potent phrase, "pupil of the Most High." There are those who suppose that as a pupil of the Most High, Ellen G. White was merely a tabula rasa upon which heaven wrote its messages, for which her pen was only a recording machine. We must not discount in any way the wonderful revelations made to and through this humble woman in both dream and open vision; but it would be unfair to her character to suppose that she was a mere passive instrument without mind or will in the work God called her to do.
As a matter of fact, being tutored by heavenly agencies, she was the better student of history, of men, and of events as they were recorded in the books and literature of the day. Her remarkable familiarity with history of both nations and the church came not only by revelation but through diligent reading of the sources available in her clay. The old volumes of Sabbath Readings for the Home Circle came out of her patient screening of stories she had read from here and 'there. and a collecting of them for binding, that parents and children might have wholesome material full of spiritual suasion for their leisure reading.
In these later times those who minister the oracles of God to this confused and troubled generation need likewise to become pupils of the Most High. Not only must they be aware of Bible interpretation in its application to past events, but they should be keenly alert to higtory in the making. They must know what men are thinking ; they must become more familiar with practical psychology; they must have adequate solutions for the basic problems of humanity. Some of this knowledge must come from directly dealing with humanity itself. But much of it may come from observation of life through reading the best that has been thought and written in the significant books of the world. In a time of low-priced books and periodicals such as this, there is no excuse for a failure to keep up a program of systematic reading—no excuse save indolence or an utter lack of vision and sense of responsibility.
What would any tool be worth, especially a tool of the precision type, if it were never tested, never adjusted, never sharpened, and yet were kept in constant use? By analogy, what can we expect of a worker's talents if he is constantly using them but never improving or truing them with accepted standards? What of one's store of knowledge, too, if there is constantly an overflow, but never any replenishing of the stock, never any investigation of new aspects of truth? The questions are elementary and their answers perfectly obvious, vet there are those who ignore their implications, pleading a too strenuous program, or a grist of multitudinous duties that take priority over a desirable culture which they admit is nice but not absolutely necessary.
It is a trite observation that the would-be successful worker has only begun his education when he leaves college and seminary. In the schools he learns how to study; it is imperative that he put that practical knowledge to use when he plans his reading program for progressive intellectual cultivation.
The books selected by the Ministerial Association through its reviewing committees are designed each year to stimulate study and to give some kind of balance to the reading needs of evangelistic workers. It is projected as a United Study Plan, suggesting a fellowship of endeavor, the high objective of which is an informed ministry. Relaxation for leisure hours, therefore, is a by-product of the plan rather than its chief purpose.
I have had the privilege of reading some of the book selections for this coming winter in both manuscript and page proofs, and I feel that they are a definite contribution to the inspiration and information of every worker. The greatest value came from the fact that as a book editor I had to read them twice, and the second reading proved the more profitable.
Some of our pioneer workers sharpened their tools of expression through the reading of such works as Paradise Lost and Pilgrim's Progress. They had no guidance other than their own intelligent choice of what to read. Some of the richest gospel and devotional literature we ever produced came from the pens of tfiese men who absorbed a phrasal competency or polished a natural literary propensity with regular study of good books. Our modern plan is better, for the selection by the promoters of the United Study Plan is not a haphazard one, and therefore adapts itself to self-directed study for definite objectives.
During the coming winter at least a portion of time devoted to the reading program should be given to reading aloud, either to one's self or to the family circle, striving for excellence in the careful enunciation of ideas and pronunciation of words. Many of America's noted pulpiteers followed that plan. Some of this reading that will be coming to you through the book selections is couched in smooth English diction.
Some of it is rich in persuasive colloquialism. Some of it is vigorous with trenchant logic and argument. All of it is profitable for edification of mind and heart.
Those who systematically follow the United Study Plan year by year are its best promoters. They refuse to look upon the end of a reading course as a terminal, and explore the many suggestions for reading in the optional, or elective, lists that are as carefully selected for their value as those required volumes in the year's course. The minister or Bible instructor who pursues the United Study Plan develops an assurance that enables him to ask of the modern seeker after truth, with the authority of a Philip, understandest thou what thou readest?"