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General Conference Bulletin, vol. 1

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    (Read before the State Agents’ Convention.)

    MUCH has been said in the past about the importance of the canvassing work, but it seems that we have reached a time when we realize more the importance of it than we ever did before. The only reason why many of our canvassers have staid in the field, especially the last year when times were so hard and money so scarce, was because they realized the importance of the work, and the truthfulness of the following statements:—GCB March 1, 1895, page 410.9

    If there is one work more important than another, it is that of getting our publications before the people, thus leading them to search the Scriptures. — “Spirit of Prophecy,” Vol.4, p.390.GCB March 1, 1895, page 410.10

    It is a fact that the circulation of our papers is doing even a greater work than the living preacher can do. — Supplement to Signs, Feb. 24, 1887.GCB March 1, 1895, page 410.11

    Before we say anything about the canvasser’s legitimate work, it might be well to ask, What is the object of this branch of the work? This the Lord tells us in a few very plain words:—GCB March 1, 1895, page 410.12

    The canvassing work is God’s means of reaching many that would not otherwise be impressed with the truth. — “Testimony” 32, p.161.GCB March 1, 1895, page 410.13

    Now, as the Lord does not tell us who those “many” are, or where they are to be found, we see that the canvasser has to enter the mansion of the great, the palace of the rich, the office of the business man, the home of the laborer, the cabin of the lowly by the wayside, or stop in public thoroughfares, whenever he can get a chance.GCB March 1, 1895, page 410.14

    God’s plan in sending the truth to the people wherever they are found seems to be foretold by the prophet in the following language: “Behold, I will send for many fishers, said the Lord, and they shall fish them; and after will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rock.” Jeremiah 16:16. And by reading the history of God’s people, we find that this work has been carried on ever since the time of the Waldenses.GCB March 1, 1895, page 410.15

    We read about the Waldenses:—GCB March 1, 1895, page 410.16

    The work of these missionaries began in the plains and valleys at the foot of their own mountains, but it extended far beyond these limits. With naked feet and with garments coarse and travel-stained as were those of their Master, they passed through great cities, and penetrated to distant lands; everywhere they scattered the precious seed.GCB March 1, 1895, page 410.17

    They secretly carried about with them copies of the Bible, in whole or in part, and wherever opportunity was presented, they called the attention of their customers to these manuscripts. Often an interest to read God’s word was thus awakened, and some portion was gladly left with those who desired it. — “Great Controversy,” p.71.GCB March 1, 1895, page 411.1

    We are told in the “Spirit of Prophecy,” Vol. 4, page 688, that -GCB March 1, 1895, page 411.2

    The burden of selling our publications should not rest upon ministers who labor in word and doctrine... Their time and strength should not be drawn upon to sell our books, when they can be properly brought before the public by those who have not the burden of preaching the Word.GCB March 1, 1895, page 411.3

    The minister’s time and strength should not be drawn upon to sell books. This principle seems to have been recognized in the days of Luther. We read in history that “Luther’s writings were welcome alike in city and in hamlet... Monks who had been led to see the unlawfulness of the monastic obligations, desirous of exchanging a life of indolence for one of activity, but too ignorant to be able themselves to proclaim the word of God, traversed the provinces, selling the writings of the Reformer and his friends. Germany was ere long overrun with these enterprising colporters.”GCB March 1, 1895, page 411.4

    From this we learn that those who could not preach, but were anxious to do something for the Lord, went as pioneers all over Germany, and in that manner prepared the way for the Reformation. Another thing we learn from history is how the canvassers were supported at that time:—GCB March 1, 1895, page 411.5

    The writings of the German reformers were translated into the French language, and, together with the French Bible, were printed in large quantities. These works were sold extensively in France. They were furnished to the colporters at a low price, and thus the profits of the work enabled them to continue it. — “Great Controversy,” p.231.GCB March 1, 1895, page 411.6

    In this way “New Testaments and tracts were freely distributed, and they reached many who dare not come openly to listen to the new doctrines.” This shows the Lord’s object in the canvassing work, — that it is God’s means of reaching many who would not otherwise be impressed with the truth.GCB March 1, 1895, page 411.7

    Further, we learn that those canvassers in time past had to pass through an examination before they were allowed to enter the work.GCB March 1, 1895, page 411.8

    One Lucian was sent to Zurich with some of Luther’s writings by a friend of the reformed faith at Basel, who suggested that the sales of these books might be a powerful means of scattering the light. “Ascertain,” he wrote to Zwingle, “whether this certain Lucian possesses a sufficient share of discretion and address; if it shall appear that he does, let him go from city to city, from town to town, from village to village, — nay, from house to house, — all over Switzerland, carrying with him the writings of Luther. — “Great Controversy,” p.178.GCB March 1, 1895, page 411.9

    We learn from these few historical facts and from the spirit of prophecy, that the object of the canvassing work is and has always been to bring light to those who in no other way could be reached. We learn that the canvassers had to visit every house, and that they got their books so cheap that they could make their work self-supporting. We learn another lesson from this, and that is the necessity of examining the canvassers before permitting them to enter the field. It is much to be regretted that we have neglected this more or less in the past. This lesson we ought never to forget. We are now standing on the very border of the heavenly Canaan. Every step we take, every word we speak, every act we perform, and every influence we leave behind us, tells for time and eternity. How careful we should be from this on in regard to selecting canvassers, if we do not want the work of God to be misrepresented or his name dishonored!GCB March 1, 1895, page 411.10

    After having considered the importance and the object of the canvassing work, it might be in place to ask, Who should be engaged in that work? To this question different answers have been given: 1. Let only those handle our books who believe what they teach. 2. If a man is honest, even if he does not believe the whole truth, let him canvass. 3. If a man can get a good recommendation, even if he is an outsider, let him canvass. 4. If a person will attend the institute and learn the printed canvass, then let him sell our books.GCB March 1, 1895, page 411.11

    Now as we have experienced some very bad results in the past from letting everybody who came along canvass, we are not going to discuss this question again, before we have asked the Lord this question: “Who do you want for canvassers?” The Lord has already answered this more than fifteen years ago; but once more we will listen, and then when we have heard his advice, the best thing we can do is to do just as he tells us to. Brethren, what do you say?GCB March 1, 1895, page 411.12

    Let the self-denying and self-sacrificing, the lovers of God and humanity, join the army of workers. Let them come, not expecting ease, but to be brave and of good courage under rebuffs and hardships. Let those come who can give a good report of our publications, because they, themselves, appreciate their value. — “Testimony” 32, p.162.GCB March 1, 1895, page 411.13

    In all parts of the field canvassers should be selected, — not the floating elements of society, not from among men and women who are good for nothing else, and have made a success of nothing, but from among those who have good address, tact, keen foresight, and ability. — “Spirit of Prophecy,” Vol. 4, p.389.GCB March 1, 1895, page 411.14

    The canvassing work is more important than many have regarded it, and as much care and wisdom should be used in selecting the workers as in selecting men for the ministry. — “Testimony” 32, p.161.GCB March 1, 1895, page 411.15

    Our brethren should show discretion in selecting canvassers,... unless they have made up their minds to have the truth misapprehended and misrepresented. — “Testimony” 32, p.159.GCB March 1, 1895, page 411.16

    And because the Lord wants only God-fearing men and women to sell books containing his truth, he has told us that it will not be an easy thing to find canvassers.GCB March 1, 1895, page 412.1

    There are battles to be fought to arrest the attention of men and women, and interest them in really valuable books that have the Bible for their foundation; and it will be a still greater task to find conscientious, God-fearing workers who will enter the field to canvass for these books [not for the sake of earning a lot of money, nor because a person has not anything else to do, or because he cannot succeed in anything else, but] for the purpose of diffusing light.GCB March 1, 1895, page 412.2

    The only thing that should lead the canvasser to enter the field is the love of Jesus in his soul. — “Gospel Workers.”GCB March 1, 1895, page 412.3

    And “if the canvasser pursues a wrong course, if he utters falsehood or practices deception, he loses his own self-respect.” And that is not all; the people will not only blame him who deceives them, but they will blame the whole denomination. The people will be prejudiced, and woe to that man or woman who shall be sent into that territory with another Seventh-day Adventist book. The Lord says to the wicked (and that must surely mean those whose hearts are not right with him) “What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth? Seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee.” Psalm 50:16, 17.GCB March 1, 1895, page 412.4

    It does not seem necessary to refer to any more testimonies to show what kind of workers the Lord wants, or to show how careful we should be in selecting them.GCB March 1, 1895, page 412.5

    The canvasser must not expect that every door on which he knocks will be opened. He must not expect always to see a friendly face or hear a hearty welcome when he enters a house and makes his business known. He must not expect always to get a good healthful meal when he is hungry, nor always to get a bed in a house when night comes on and he is tired; but he can expect that all who are actively engaged in the cause of God, seeking to unvail the deceptions of the evil one and to present Christ before the people, will be able to join in the testimony of Paul, in which he speaks of serving the Lord with all humility of mind, with many tears and temptations.GCB March 1, 1895, page 412.6

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