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Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 16 (1901)

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    Ms 133, 1901

    Proper Books and Literature to Read



    This manuscript consists of extracts published in various sources. Ellipses are in the original typed Ms.

    (From a Ms. to the workers in the office at Oakland, California, dated North Fitzroy, Australia, December 19, 1891.)16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 1

    The character of your religious experience is made manifest largely by the character of the books that you choose to read in your leisure moments. The Bible is the book of books; and if you love the Scriptures, searching them when you have opportunity, that you may come in possession of the rich treasures of the Word of God and be thoroughly furnished unto all good works, then you may be assured that Jesus is drawing you to Himself. But to read the Scripture in merely a casual way, without seeking to comprehend the lesson of Christ, that you may comply with His requirements, is not enough. There are rich treasures in the Word of God that can be discovered only by sinking the shaft deep into the mine of truth. The Scriptures are given for our benefit, that we may have instruction in righteousness. ...16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 2

    The carnal mind rejects the truth, but the soul that is converted undergoes a marvelous change. The book that was unattractive, because it revealed truths that testified against the sinner, to the converted heart becomes the food of the soul, the consolation and joy of a life. The eyes anointed with spiritual discernment behold new beauties in the Word of God and see that the inspired words of the Scriptures are especially adapted to the needs of the soul. The Sun of Righteousness shines upon the Word, and there is the flashing of divinity through humanity. The Spirit of God speaks to the soul, and the heart of the true believer becomes like a watered garden. To those who love Christ, the Bible is as the garden of God; those promises are as grateful to the heart as the fragrance of flowers to senses. Then take your Bibles and, with fresh interest, begin to study the sacred records of the Old and New Testaments. ...16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 3

    I have a word from the Lord to you who are handling sacred things and yet who do not appreciate the value of eternal realities and have not spiritual discernment to understand the work that you are doing. The Spirit of God is grieved because works of a worldly character which are calculated to charm the senses, to fill the mind with that which can only be compared to wood, hay, and stubble, are multiplied in the office of publication. These books are read with eagerness, and they contain no spiritual nourishment, whereby the soul can acquire more strength; give no true idea of Christian life or instruction in regard to the common duties of life. The atmosphere they breathe is one that is detrimental to solid Christian experience. Were Christ upon the earth today, He would cleanse the office of many things that are not in accordance with our high profession, as He cleansed the temple of its unholy traffic. It is written, “My house shall be called an house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.” [Matthew 21:13.] Let every one begin to cleanse his own soul-temple and thus co-operate with Christ in the work of purifying the office.16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 4

    Let not books be placed before the workers which, if they do not mislead and corrupt the mind, will still give to the mind a disrelish for the Word of God which brings to view matters of eternal interest. ... There is no time for engaging in trifling, amusing, and the gratification of selfish propensities. It is time that you were occupied with serious thoughts. ...16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 5

    There is such a mingling of the sacred and the common in the work at the office, that much of the sacredness of the work of God has been lost from the minds of the workers. The subject matter that they are handling is of such a character that their attention is arrested and their mind engaged; and the cheap, objectionable sentences are fastened upon the memory; and before they know it, they are influenced by the spirit of the writer; and their mind and character is fashioned in some objectionable mold. There are souls connected with the office who are weak in the faith, weak in the power of self-control; and through the influence of such publications, a train of thought is started that will be difficult to repress and expel from the mind. Before they embraced the truth, they had formed the habit of reading light and trifling literature; and after uniting with the church, they made efforts to overcome this taste for novels and storybooks. To introduce to this class books that are not in harmony with the sacred work of God is like putting the glass to the lips of the inebriate. With the temptation continually before them, they yield and become interested in that which they discarded and lose their relish for solid reading, for Bible study which is positively essential for the health of the soul. Through the influence of this kind of reading, moral power is enfeebled; dishonesty and crime do not appear so repulsive, discernment and sanctified perception are lost, and unfaithfulness in little things is increased. When the appetite of the mind is perverted, these poor souls will grasp any kind of reading that has a stimulating influence.16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 6

    All these things have been placed before me, and every line of business at the office must be so regulated that the purity of the Christian character shall be preserved. Every temporal, earthly interest must be so subjected to the interest of the higher life that at any sacrifice this Christian integrity shall be untarnished. The question of what shall be published at the office must be viewed in the light of the teachings of the Holy Scriptures. The Lord’s voice must be honored and obeyed. “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” [John 6:63.] The truth must not be placed in the background as now it is, for subjects of vast importance to the soul receive only a passing notice, while these objectionable things must have the foreground. The workers overlook the great truths that would make them wise unto salvation.16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 7


    (Testimony to Pacific Press Pub. Co., dated Melbourne, Australia, Dec. 23, 1891.)16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 8

    The large number of hands in the office make it necessary to take in a large amount of work in order to keep them employed. Thus in printing for other parties, an objectionable class of publication is introduced into the office. My guide inquired of one who was occupying a responsible position, “How much do you receive in payment for this work?” The figures were placed before him. He said, “This is too small a sum. If you do business in this way, you meet with loss. But even if you should receive a much larger sum, this class of literature would be published at great cost to the office; for the influence upon the workers is demoralizing. All the messages that God shall send them presenting the sacredness of the work are neutralized by your action in consenting to print such a class of matter.”16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 9

    The world is deluged with books that might better be consumed rather than circulated. Books upon Indian warfare and similar topics, published and circulated as a money-making scheme, might better never be read by the youth. There is a satanic fascination in such books. The heart-sickening relation of crimes and atrocities has had a bewitching power upon many youth, exciting them to see what they can do to bring themselves into notice, even by the wickedest deeds. Even the enormities, the cruelties, the licentious practices portrayed in more strictly historical writings, have acted as leaven in many minds, leading to the commission of similar acts. Books that delineate the satanic practices of human beings are giving publicity to evil works. These wicked, horrible particulars need not be lived over, and none who believe the truth for this time should act a part in perpetuating the memory of them. We have no permission from the Lord to engage either in the printing or the sale of such publications, for they are the means of destroying many souls. I know of what I am writing, for this matter has been opened before me. Let not those who believe the truth engage in this kind of work, thinking to make money. The Lord will put a blight upon the means thus obtained; He will scatter more than is accumulated.16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 10

    There is another class of books—love stories, and frivolous and exciting tales that are a curse to every one who reads them—and this, although the author may attach a good moral. Often religious sentiments are woven all through these books; but in most cases, Satan is but clothed in angel robes to deceive and allure the unsuspicious. The mind is affected in a great degree by what it feeds upon. The readers of frivolous and exciting tales become unfitted for the duties lying before them. They live an unreal life and have no desire to search the Scriptures, to feed upon the heavenly manna. The mind that needs strengthening is enfeebled and loses its power to contemplate the great problems which relate to the mission and work of Christ, the plan of salvation—subjects [that] will fortify the mind, awaken the imagination, and kindle the strongest desire to overcome as Christ overcame.16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 11

    The youth must take heed what they read as well as what they hear. I have been shown that they are exposed to the greatest peril of being corrupted by improper reading. Could a large share of the books published be consumed, a plague would be stayed that is doing its fearful work upon human minds and corrupting human hearts. Satan is seeking to lead both the youth and those of mature age to be charmed with foolish stories. None is so confirmed in right principles, so secure from temptation, that he can feel safe and think no one need feel anxious about him. Resolutely discard all this trashy reading which will not increase your spirituality, but will introduce into your minds sentiments that cultivate the imagination, so that you think less of Jesus and dwell less upon His precious lessons. ...16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 12

    I charge you who are responsible men in the publishing office, work diligently to bring in a different order of things. Cease to publish literature which is a temptation to the workers, many of whom are weak and easily led into forbidden paths. Never should such books be put in their way. ...16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 13


    Testimonies for the Church 1:134, 135.16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 14

    I saw that young and old neglect the Bible. They do not make that book their study and their rule of life as they should. Especially are the young guilty of this neglect. Most of them are ready, and find plenty of time to read almost any other book. But the Word that points to life, eternal life, is not perused and daily studied. That precious, important book that is to judge them in the last day is scarcely studied at all. Idle stories have been attemptively read, while the Bible has been passed by neglected. ...16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 15

    Parents would better burn the idle tales of the day and the novels as they come into their houses. It would be a mercy to the children. Encourage the reading of these storybooks, and it is like enchantment. It bewilders and poisons the mind. Parents, I saw that unless you awake to the eternal interest of your children, they will be lost through your neglect. And the possibility that unfaithful parents will be saved themselves is very small. Parents should be exemplary. They should exert a holy influence in their families.16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 16


    Testimonies for the Church 1:241, 242.16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 17

    You are indulging an evil which threatens to destroy your spirituality. It will eclipse all the beauty and interest of the sacred pages. It is love for storybooks, tales, and other reading which does not have an influence for good upon the mind that is in any way dedicated to the service of God. It produces a false, unhealthy excitement, fevers the imagination, unfits the mind for usefulness, and disqualifies it for any spiritual exercise. It weans the soul from prayer and love of spiritual things. You were represented to me with your eyes turned from the sacred book and intently fixed upon exciting books which are death to religion. The oftener and more diligently you peruse the Scriptures, the more beautiful will they appear, and the less relish will you have for light reading. The daily study of the Scriptures will have a sanctifying influence upon the mind. You will breathe a heavenly atmosphere. Bind this precious volume to your hearts. It will prove to you a friend and guide in perplexity.16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 18


    Testimonies for the Church 2:236.16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 19

    The young are in great danger. Great evil results from their light reading. Much time is lost which should be spent in useful employment. Some would even deprive themselves of sleep to finish some ridiculous love story. The world is flooded with novels of every description. Some are not of as dangerous a character as others. Some are immoral, low, and vulgar; others are clothed with more refinement; but all are pernicious in their influence. Oh that the young would reflect upon the influence which exciting stories have upon the mind! Can you, after such reading, open the Word of God and read the words of life with interest? Do you not find the book of God uninteresting? The charm of that love story is upon the mind, destroying its healthy tone and making it impossible for you to fix your mind upon the important, solemn truths which concern your eternal interest. You sin against your parents in devoting to such a poor purpose the time which belongs to them, and you sin against God in thus using the time which should be spent in devotion to Him.16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 20


    Testimonies for the Church 2:410, 411.16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 21

    Many of the young are eager for books. They read everything they can obtain. Exciting love stories and impure pictures have a corrupting influence. Novels are eagerly perused by many, and as the result their imagination becomes defiled. In the cars, photographs of females in a state of nudity are frequently circulated for sale. These disgusting pictures are also found in daguerrean saloons and are hung upon the walls of those who deal in engravings. This is an age when corruption is teeming everywhere. The lust of the eye and corrupt passions are aroused by beholding and by reading. The heart is corrupted through the imagination. ... Avoid reading and seeing things which will suggest impure thoughts. Cultivate the moral and intellectual powers. Let not these noble powers become enfeebled and perverted by much reading of even storybooks. I know of strong minds that have been unbalanced and partially benumbed or paralyzed by intemperance in reading.16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 22

    I appeal to parents to control the reading of their children. Much reading does them only harm. Especially do not permit upon your tables the magazines and newspapers wherein are found love stories. It is impossible for the youth to possess a healthy tone of mind and correct religious principles, unless they enjoy the perusal of the Word of God. This book contains the most interesting history, points out the way of salvation through Christ, and is their guide to a higher and better life. They would all pronounce it the most interesting book they ever perused, if their imagination had not become perverted by exciting stories of a fictitious character. You who are looking for your Lord to come the second time to change your mortal bodies, and to fashion them like unto His most glorious body, must come up upon a higher plane of action. You must work from a higher standpoint than you have hitherto done, or you will not be of that number who will receive the finishing touch of immortality.16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 23


    Testimonies for the Church 3:471, 472.16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 24

    Violence and crime of every description are filling our world, and Satan is using every means to make crime and debasing vice popular. The youth who walk the streets are surrounded with handbills and notices of crime and sin presented in some novel or to be acted at some theater. Their minds are educated into familiarity with sin. The course pursued by the base and vile is kept before them in the periodicals of the day, and everything which can excite curiosity and arouse the animal passions is brought before them in thrilling and exciting stories.16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 25

    The literature that proceeds from corrupted intellects poisons the minds of thousands in our world. Sin does not appear exceedingly sinful. They hear and read so much of debasing crime and vileness that the once-tender conscience, which would have recoiled with horror, becomes so blunted that it can dwell upon the low and vile sayings and actions of men with greedy interest.16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 26

    ... There will be a people who hold so fast to the divine strength that they will be proof against every temptation. Evil communications in flaming handbills may seek to speak to their senses and corrupt their minds; yet they will be so united to God and angels that they will be as those who see not and hear not.16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 27


    Testimonies for the Church 4:497, 498.16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 28

    You have indulged in novel and story reading until you live in an imaginary world. The influence of such reading is injurious to both the mind and the body; it weakens the intellect and brings a fearful tax upon the physical strength. At times your mind is scarcely sane, because the imagination has been over-excited and diseased by reading fictitious stories. The mind should be so disciplined that all its powers will be symmetrically developed. A certain course of training may invigorate special faculties, and at the same time leave other faculties without improvement, so that their usefulness will be crippled. The memory is greatly injured by ill-chosen reading, which has a tendency to unbalance the reasoning powers, and to create nervousness, weariness of the brain, and prostration of the entire system. ...16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 29

    You are a mental dyspeptic. Your mind has been crammed with knowledge of all sorts—politics, history, theology, and anecdote—only a part of which can be retained by the abused memory. Much less information, with a mind well disciplined, would be of far greater value. You have neglected to train your mind to vigorous action; therefore your will and inclination have controlled you and been your masters instead of your servants. The result is a loss of physical and mental power.16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 30

    For years your mind has been like a babbling brook, nearly filled with rocks and weeds, the water running to waste. Were your powers controlled by high purposes, you would not be the invalid that you now are. You fancy you must be indulged in your caprice of appetite and in your excessive reading. I saw the midnight lamp burning in your room while you were poring over some fascinating story, thus stimulating your already over-excited brain. This course has been lessening your hold upon life and enfeebling you physically, mentally, and morally. ...16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 31

    Education is but a preparation of the physical, intellectual, and moral powers for the best performance of all the duties of life. Improper reading gives an education that is false. The power of endurance and the strength and activity of the brain may be lessened or increased according to the manner in which they are employed. There is a work before you to dispose of this light reading. Remove it from the house! Do not have before you the temptation to pervert your imagination, to unbalance your nervous system, and to ruin your children.16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 32


    Testimonies for the Church 5:506.16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 33

    If the souls of your children are saved, you must do your work with fidelity. God has not been wholly pleased with your course in regard to worldly associations, and now the peril is revealed. You have also encouraged the reading of storybooks; these and papers with continued stories, lying upon your table, have educated the taste of your daughter until she is a mental inebriate and needs a stronger power, a firmer will than her own, to control her.16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 34


    Testimonies for the Church 5:516-520.16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 35

    Dear Brother E.: I have just read the Review and Herald and have seen your article giving a list of good books for our youth. I was much surprised to read your recommendation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Robinson Crusoe, and such books. You are in danger of becoming somewhat careless in your writing. It would be well to give thought and careful study to whatever is to be immortalized in print. I am really alarmed to see that your spiritual eyesight is not more clear in the matter of selecting and recommending reading for our youth. I know that the recommendation in our papers of such infatuating books as Uncle Tom’s Cabin will in many minds justify the reading of other books which are nothing but fiction. ... This recommendation will make taxing work for those who are laboring to persuade the youth to discard fictitious reading. I have repeatedly seen the evil of reading such books as you recommend and have an article all prepared cautioning our youth in this very matter.16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 36

    Be sure, my brother, not to lead away from the searching of the Scriptures. It has been revealed to me that the purchase and sale by our brethren of storybooks such as are commonly circulated in Sunday schools, is a snare to our people, especially to our children. It leads them to expend money for that class of reading which fevers the imagination, and unfits them for the real duties of practical life. You may be assured that this recommendation of yours will be acted upon. The youth need no such sanction or liberty, for their taste and inclination are all in this direction. But I hope no more such recommendations will appear. You must be getting away from Jesus and His teachings and do not realize it.16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 37

    It is Satan’s work to present to our youth newspaper stories and storybooks that fascinate the senses and thus destroy their relish for the Word of God. ... It is not best for you to feel at liberty to speak your mind upon such matters as concern the welfare of our youth, recommending books which do not tend to spirituality or piety. If you fancy that such reading will develop firm, unspotted principle, you are mistaken. ...16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 38

    There are many of our youth whom God has endowed with superior capabilities. He has given them the very best of talents; but their powers have been enervated, their minds confused and enfeebled, and for years they have made no growth in grace and in a knowledge of the reasons of our faith, because they have gratified a taste for story-reading. They have as much difficulty to control the appetite for such superficial reading as the drunkard has to control his appetite for intoxicating drink. These might today be connected with our publishing houses and be efficient workers to keep books, prepare copy for the press, or to read proof; but their talents have been perverted until they are mental dyspeptics and consequently are unfitted for a responsible position anywhere. The imagination is diseased. They live an unreal life. They are unfitted for the practical duties of life; and that which is the most sad and discouraging is they have lost all relish for solid reading. They have become infatuated and charmed with just such food for the mind as the intensely exciting stories contained in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. That book did good in its day to those who needed an awakening in regard to their false ideas of slavery; but we are standing upon the very borders of the eternal world, where such stories are not needed in the preparation for eternal life. ...16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 39

    The special effort for this time of ministers and of workers all through our ranks should be to turn away the attention of the youth from all exciting stories to the sure Word of prophecy. The attention of every soul striving for eternal life should center upon the Bible.16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 40

    It seems wonderfully strange to me, considering all I have written in regard to the reading of exciting stories, to see a recommendation from your pen to read Robinson Crusoe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and Aesop’s Fables. My brother, you made a mistake in writing that article. If these books are among those which you have for sale, I beg of you never to offer them again to our youth. It is your duty to call their attention to the Bible; do not become their tempter by offering to them attractive storybooks which will divert their minds from the story of the Scriptures. We must ourselves be drinking of the water of life, else we will be constantly hewing out for ourselves broken cisterns which can hold no water.16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 41

    There are a thousand ways and plans that Satan has of creeping in to unsettle the minds of youth, and unless the soul is firmly and fully stayed upon God, and conscientiously guarded upon the very point of keeping the mind employed in searching the Scriptures, and becoming grounded in our faith, they will surely be ensnared. We cannot be off guard for a moment. We cannot allow ourselves to move from impulse. We must set a guard about our minds and the minds of our children, that they may not be allured by Satan’s temptations.16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 42


    Testimonies for the Church 5:544, 545.16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 43

    We are living in a time when everything that is false and superficial is exalted above the real, the natural, and the enduring. The mind must be kept free from everything that would lead it in a wrong direction. It should not be encumbered with trashy stories, which do not add strength to the mental powers. The thoughts will be of the same character as the food we provide for the mind. ...16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 44

    Could my voice reach the parents all through the land, I would warn them not to yield to the desires of their children in choosing their companions or associates. ... If children are with those whose conversation is upon unimportant, earthly things, their minds will come to the same level. ... If their minds are filled with stories, be they true or fictitious, there is no room for the useful information and scientific knowledge which should occupy them. What havoc has this love for light reading wrought with the mind! How it has destroyed the principles of sincerity and true godliness, which lie at the foundation of a symmetrical character! It is like a slow poison taken into the system, which will sooner or later reveal its bitter effects. When a wrong impression is left upon the mind in youth, a mark is made, not on sand, but on enduring rock.16LtMs, Ms 133, 1901, par. 45

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