Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 14 (1899)


Ms 122, 1899

The Canvasser and His Work


July 2, 1899 [typed]

A collection of extracts largely taken from 5T 396-407. See also 1MCP 51; 6MR 271-273. +Note

Importance of the Canvassing Work. The canvassing work is more important than many have regarded it. If there is one work more important than another, it is that of getting our publications before the public, thus leading them to search the Scriptures. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 1

Selection of Canvassers. As much care and wisdom must be used in selecting the workers as in selecting men for the ministry. In all parts of the field, colporteurs and canvassers should be selected, not from the floating element in 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. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 2

Persons of uncouth manners are not fitted for this work. Men and women who possess tact, good address, keen foresight, and discriminating minds, and who feel the value of souls, are the ones who can be successful. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 3

Those of the best talent and ability, who will take hold of the work understandingly and systematically, and carry it forward with persevering energy, are the ones who should be selected. There should be a most thoroughly organized plan; and this should be most faithfully carried out. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 4

Men should be at work who are willing to be taught as to the best way of approaching individuals and families. Their dress should be neat, but not foppish, and their manner such as not to disgust the people. There is a great want of true politeness among us as a people. Much is gained by courtesy. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 5

Canvassers need self-culture and polished manners, not the affected and artificial manners of the world, but the agreeable manners that are the natural result of kindness of heart and a desire to copy the example of Christ. They should cultivate thoughtful, caretaking habits—habits of industry and discretion—and should seek to honor God by making of themselves all that it is possible for them to become. Jesus made an infinite sacrifice to place them in right relations to God and to their fellow men, and divine aid, combined with human effort, will enable them to reach a high standard of excellence. The canvasser should be chaste like Joseph, meek like Moses, and temperate like Daniel; then a power will attend him wherever he goes. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 6

Preparation for the Work. Very much more efficient work can be done in the canvassing field than has yet been done. The canvasser should not rest satisfied unless he is constantly improving. He should make thorough preparation, but should not be content with a set form of words; he should give the Lord a chance to work with his efforts and impress his mind. The love of Jesus abiding in his heart will enable him to devise means to gain access to individuals and families. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 7

The work of the colporteur is elevating, and will prove a success if he is honest, earnest, and patient, steadily pursuing the work he has undertaken. His heart must be in the work. He must rise early, and work industriously, putting to proper use the faculties God has given him. Difficulties must be met. If confronted with unceasing perseverance, they will be overcome. ... The worker may continually be forming a symmetrical character. Great characters are formed by little acts and efforts. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 8

Young men are wanted who are men of understanding, who appreciate the intellectual faculties that God has given them, and cultivate them with the utmost care. Exercise enlarges these faculties, and if heart-culture is not neglected, the character will be well-balanced. The means of improvement are within the reach of all. Then let none disappoint the Master, when he comes seeking for fruit, by presenting nothing but leaves. A resolute purpose, sanctified by the grace of Christ, will do wonders. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 9

Energy and courage in Workers. Among the people professing present truth there is not a missionary spirit corresponding to our faith. The ring of the true gold in character is wanting. Christian life is more than they take it to be. It does not consist in mere gentleness, patience, meekness, and kindliness. These graces are essential; but there is need of courage, force, energy, and perseverance also. Many who engage in the work of canvassing are weak, nerveless, spiritless, easily discouraged. They lack push. They have not those positive traits of character that give men power to do something—the spirit and energy that kindle enthusiasm. The canvasser is engaged in an honorable business, and he should not act as if he were ashamed of it. If he would have success attend his efforts, he must be courageous and hopeful. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 10

The active as well as the passive virtues must be cultivated. The Christian, while he is ever ready to give the soft answer that turneth away wrath, must possess the courage of a hero to resist evil. With the charity that endureth all things, he must have the force of character which will make his influence a positive power for good. Faith must be wrought into his character. His principles must be firm. He must be noble-spirited, above all suspicion of meanness. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 11

The canvasser must not be self-inflated. As he associates with men, he must not make himself conspicuous, talking of himself in a boastful way; for by this course he would disgust intelligent, sensible people. He must not be selfish in his habits, nor overbearing and domineering in his manners. Very many have settled it in their minds that they cannot read one in ten thousand of the books that are published and put upon the market, and in many cases when the canvasser makes known his business, the door of the heart closes firmly. Hence the great need of doing his work with tact, and in a humble, prayerful spirit. He should be familiar with the Word of God, and have words at his command to unfold the precious truth, and to show the great value of the pure reading matter he carries. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 12

Well may every one feel an individual responsibility in this work. Well may he consider how he may best arrest the attention, for his manner of presenting the truth may decide the destiny of a soul. If he makes a favorable impression, his influence may be to that soul a savor of life unto life; and that one person, enlightened in regard to the truth, may enlighten many others. Therefore it is dangerous to do careless work in dealing with minds. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 13

The canvassing work is God’s means of reaching many who would not otherwise be impressed with the truth. The work is a good one, the object high and elevating; and there should be a corresponding dignity of deportment. The canvasser will meet men of varied minds. He will meet those who are ignorant and debased, and who can appreciate nothing that does not bring them money. These will be abusive; but he should not heed them. His good nature should never fail; he should take a cheerful, hopeful view of every perplexity. He will meet those who are bereaved, disheartened, and sore and wounded in spirit. To these he will have many opportunities of speaking kind words, and words of courage, hope, and faith. He may be a well-spring to refresh others if he will; but in order to do this, he must himself draw from the Fountain of living truth. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 14

The Need of Integrity. If the canvasser pursues a wrong course, if he utters falsehood or practices deception, he loses his own self-respect. He may not be conscious that God sees him, and is acquainted with every business transaction, that holy angels are weighing his motives and listening to his words, and that his reward will be according to his works; but if it were possible to conceal his wrongdoing from human and divine inspection, the fact that he himself knows it is degrading to his mind and character. One act does not determine the character, but it breaks down the barrier, and the next temptation is more readily entertained, until finally a habit of prevarication and dishonesty in business is formed, and the man cannot be trusted. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 15

In families and in the church there are too many who make little account of glaring inconsistencies. There are young men who appear what they are not. They seem honest and true; but they are like whited sepulchers, fair without, but corrupt to the core. The heart is spotted, stained with sin; thus the record stands in the heavenly courts. A process has been going on in the mind that has made them callous, past feeling. But if their characters, weighed in the balances of the sanctuary, are pronounced wanting in the great day of God, it will be a calamity that they do not now comprehend. Truth, precious, untarnished truth, is to be a part of the character. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 16

Whatever way is chosen, the path of life is beset with perils. If the workers in any branch of the cause become careless and inattentive to their eternal interest, they are meeting with great loss. The tempter will find access to them. He will spread nets for their feet, and will lead them in uncertain paths. Those only are safe whose hearts are garrisoned with pure principles. Like David they will pray, “Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not.” Psalm 17:5. A constant battle must be kept up with the selfishness and corruption of the human heart. Often the wicked seem to be prospered in their way; but those who forget God, even for an hour or a moment, are in a dangerous path. They may not realize its perils, but ere they are aware, habit, like an iron band, holds them in subjection to the evil with which they have tampered. God despises their course, and His blessing will not attend them. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 17

I have seen that young men undertake this work without connecting themselves with Heaven. They place themselves in the way of temptation to show their bravery. They laugh at the folly of others. They know the right way; they know how to conduct themselves. How easily they can resist temptation! How vain to think of their falling! But they make not God their defense. Satan has an insidious snare prepared for them, and they themselves become the sport of fools. ... 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 18

One safeguard removed from the conscience, the indulgence of evil habit, a single neglect of the high claims of duty, may be the beginning of a course of deception that will pass you into the ranks of those who are serving Satan, while you are all the time professing to love God and His cause. A moment of thoughtlessness, a single misstep, may turn the whole current of your lives in the wrong direction. ... 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 19

No one whose hands are defiled with sin, or whose heart is not right with God, should have any part in the work of the canvasser or the colporteur, for such persons will surely dishonor the cause of truth. Those who are workers in the missionary field need God to guide them. They should be careful to start right, and then keep quietly and firmly on in the path of rectitude. They should be decided, for Satan is determined and persevering in his efforts to overthrow them. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 20

Economy. Economy is needed in every department of the Lord’s work. The natural turn of youth in this age is to neglect and despise economy, and to confound it with narrowness and stinginess. But economy is consistent with the most broad and liberal views and feelings. There can be no true liberality where it is not practiced. No one should think it beneath him to study economy and the best means of taking care of the fragments. After Christ had performed a notable miracle, He said, “Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.” John 6:12. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 21

Quite a sum may be expended in hotel bills that are not at all necessary. The cause of God lay so near the heart of the pioneers in this message that they seldom took a meal at a hotel, even though the cost was but twenty-five cents each. But young men and women generally are not educated to economize, and everywhere waste follows waste. In some families there is a wicked waste of enough to support another family if reasonable economy were used. If, while traveling, our youth will keep an exact account of the money they spend, item by item, their eyes will be opened to see the leak. While they may not be called upon to deprive themselves of warm meals, as the early workers did in their itinerant life, they may learn to supply their real wants with less expense than they now think necessary. There are persons who practice self-denial in order to give means to the cause of God; then let the workers in the cause also practice self-denial by limiting their expenses as far as possible. It would be well for all our workers to study the history of the Waldensian missionaries, and to imitate their example of sacrifice and self-denial. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 22

Wages. The efficient colporteur, as well as the minister, should have a sufficient remuneration for his services if his work is faithfully done. The worker who has the cause of God at heart will not insist in receiving the highest wages. He will not plead, as some of our youth have done, that unless he can make a stylish and elegant appearance, and board at the best hotels, he will not be patronized. What the canvasser needs is not the faultless apparel, or the address of the dandy or the clown, but that honesty and integrity of character which is reflected in the countenance. Kindness and gentleness leave their impress upon the face, and the practiced eye sees no deception, detects no pomposity of manner. ... 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 23

Our brethren should show discretion in selecting canvassers and colporteurs, unless they have made up their minds to have the truth misrepresented and misapprehended. They should give all real workers good wages; but the sum should not be increased to buy canvassers; for this course hurts them. It makes them selfish and spend-thrifts. Seek to impress them with the spirit of true missionary work, and with the qualifications necessary to insure success. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 24

Many of the workers in the canvassing field are making no sacrifices. As a class, they have less of the missionary spirit than the workers in any other denomination. When the way is all prepared for them, when they can command the highest wages, then they are willing to enter the field. Many inducements are presented to canvassers to handle popular books. Large wages are offered them, and many refuse to work for less wages to circulate books treating on present truth. Therefore the inducements have been increased to correspond to those offered by other publishers, and as a consequence the expense of getting our publications before the people is large. Many of the canvassers obtain their money easily, and spend it freely. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 25

Young men can be trained to do much better work than has been done, and on much less pay than many have received. Lift up the standard, and let the self-denying and the self-sacrificing, the lovers of God and of 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. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 26

Debts to the Publishing Houses. The loose way in which canvassers, both old and young, have performed their work shows that they have important lessons to learn. Much haphazard work has been presented before me. Some have trained themselves in deficient habits, and this deficiency has been brought into the work of God. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 27

The International Tract and Missionary Society has been deeply involved in debt through the failure of canvassers to meet their indebtedness. Canvassers have felt that they were ill-treated if required to pay promptly for the books received from the publishing house. Yet to require prompt remittal is the only way in which to carry on business. It has been neither kind nor just for the managers at the Office to deal with canvassers in a way that has been called merciful. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 28

One man, who has been asked to settle his account, feels as though he has been personally abused, and has written an unchristian answer, as if those who hold responsible positions had no right to require prompt and honest dealing on the part of canvassers. This man is not the only one who has felt in this way. One after another has dealt in the same manner, until the publishing houses and the missionary society are wading in debt. God’s cause is left in embarrassment, and He is dishonored. There must be an entire change in the workers who have brought embarrassment upon the Lord’s cause by their careless and irresponsible manner of dealing. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 29


When men in the canvassing work get into difficulties, they expect that money is to be drawn from the treasury to help them out, only to get into straightened places again, and again to require help. Those who are stewards of the means in the treasury must keep a sharp lookout to see that the supply is not exhausted by these draughts upon it. When men cannot by canvassing bring into the treasury every dollar that belongs rightly to it, let them stop where they are. They should not engage in canvassing unless they can bring means into the treasury, instead of robbing it. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 30


Economy must be practiced on all sides. No worker should manage his affairs in a way to incur debt. The state of the treasury will not admit of this. The practice of drawing money from the treasury before it is earned is a snare. In this way the resources are limited, so that laborers cannot be supported in missionary work. When one voluntarily becomes involved in debt, he is entangling himself in one of Satan’s nets, which he sets for souls. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 31


Last night I was exercised in mind. I seemed to be in an assembly where were gathered ministers and leading men connected with the various branches of the work. There was a dearth of money in the treasury, and these men were discussing as to the best plans and methods for doing a large work with the smallest possible expenditure of means. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 32

Statements were made that some of the canvassers conducted their business in such a slack, loose way as to be constantly sapping the funds needed for carrying on the work. They were selling books, and giving the impression that they were working for the cause; but instead of bringing in the means so much needed to advance the work, they were taking many pounds from the treasury. The means which came into their hands, which was not their own, they appropriated to defray their own expenses, the expenses of their families, or to give to their family connections. Both in _____ and _____ the slack, loose methods followed by the canvassers have been a great hindrance to the progress of the work. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 33

By appropriating to their own use that which belongs to the cause of God, canvassers involve themselves in difficulties, separate their souls from God, and create a feeling of uncertainty, a want of confidence, in those who are laboring with them in the field. At the same time they do injustice to their fellow laborers. Men who do their very best are liable to be regarded with suspicion, and thus are made to suffer because of the course of untrustworthy persons. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 34

Those who deal in this manner are making themselves channels of darkness instead of channels of light. Satan, instead of the Holy Spirit, is working with human agencies. The result is that the cause of God is involved in perplexity and brought into embarrassment, and a heavy burden is cast upon those who were appointed to bear weighty responsibilities. If this loose way of doing business is permitted to continue, it will not only drain the treasury of means, but will cut off the supplies that flow from the people. It will destroy their confidence in those who have the management of funds, and will lead many to discontinue their gifts and offerings. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 35

The course of these careless workmen has brought upon men in leading positions a burden that grieves them to the heart. They are perplexed to know how they can guard the cause of God from every species of robbery, and yet save the souls of those who have such perverted ideas as to what is true honesty. When men accept the truth, will it not work by love and purify the soul? Will not those who are converted manifest a decided change in spirit and character? Will men continue to move on recklessly after they claim to be the children of God? Will they so deal with their Lord’s goods that their characters and principles shall be against the truth? Can it be possible that men are converted who embezzle the Lord’s goods, and take from His treasury the very means by which His cause lives and moves forward successfully? Shall men be entrusted with the Lord’s goods while they cherish vanity, and indulge their selfish propensities, yielding to temptation which leads them into a course of action condemned by God? 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 36

The demoralizing practice of borrowing money to relieve some pressing necessity, and making no calculation for cancelling the indebtedness, has been common among the people of this country, but it has not worked for their elevation of character. The Lord would have all who believe the truth converted from these self-deceiving practices. They should choose rather to suffer want than to commit a dishonest act. No soul can resort to prevarication or dishonesty in handling the Lord’s goods and stand guiltless before God. All who do this deny Christ in action, while they profess to keep and teach the commandments of God. They do not maintain the principles of God’s law. If those who see the truth do not change in character corresponding to the sanctifying influence of the truth, they will be a savor of death unto death. They will misrepresent the truth, bring a reproach upon it, and dishonor Christ, who is truth. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 37

The Lord’s goods should be handled with faithfulness. God has given men life, health, and reasoning powers. He has given physical and mental strength to be exercised. Shall not the time and talents which are His gifts be faithfully and diligently employed to His name’s glory? Have our brethren considered the fact that they must give an account for all the talents placed in their possession? Have they traded wisely with their Lord’s goods, or have they spent His substance recklessly, so that they are written in heaven as unfaithful servants? A record has been kept in heaven of all that has been done. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 38

In the assembly at which I seemed to be present, the question was asked by what means the work could be carried forward, and canvassers be prevented from embarrassing the cause and casting a burden upon the publishing houses by their careless, selfish way of doing business. This question is of consequence. How can order be brought out of confusion, and how can the work be carried on according to principles which God can approve? What will be the wisest way to remedy the existing evil? Already it has taken from the treasury a large amount of means and brought a heavy weight upon the poverty-stricken cause. It has laid a heavy burden of debt upon the instrumentalities ordained for the advancement of the work and cause of God. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 39

The present manner of working must be changed. Some way must be devised by which the robbery of the cause of God will be discerned and checked before it is too late to prevent great loss. The men who are not exact and trustworthy must either be converted or they must be discharged, and seek some other employment. We must have workmen who will not imperil the cause of God by robbing His treasury. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 40

Our brethren who hold responsible positions of trust must be faithful sentinels. They have to deal with those who have proved to be unfaithful men, who have revealed the fact that they cannot be relied upon in doing business connected with the cause of God. Unless these men are converted, and are transformed in character, unless they will maintain their integrity at any cost to themselves, they must be separated from the work; for the heavenly intelligences will not co-operate with them. “Without me,” says Christ, “ye can do nothing.” [John 15:5.] These men have lost discrimination of correct principles. God’s work must have men connected with it who have solid principles, men who in all lines of the work will do right because it is right. They must be led by the Lord in all their methods. Then they will take the right path, because they are doers of the words of Christ. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 41

The greater problem we have to solve is how to prevent the loss of the souls of those who have been guilty of unfaithfulness. Brethren, work with the Spirit of Christ, with the mind of Christ, to correct existing evils. The wrongdoer will have the sympathy of wrongdoers; but faithful shepherds of the flock must maintain an elevated standard, and yet teach that the Star of hope is shining still. Work on patiently, but rebuke sin firmly, giving it no sanction. The world is soon to be left by the angel of mercy, and the seven last plagues are to be poured out. Sin, shame, sorrow and darkness are on every side. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 42

God still holds out to men the precious privilege of exchanging darkness for light, error for truth, sin for righteousness; but His patience and mercy will not always wait. The storm is gathering; the bolts of God’s wrath are soon to fall; and when He shall begin to punish the transgressors, there will be no period of respite until the end. He shall come forth to punish the inhabitants of the world for their iniquity, and “the earth shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.” [Isaiah 26:21.] Only those will stand who are sanctified through the truth in the love of God. They will be hid with Christ in God until the desolation shall be overpast. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 43

Let no one think that he can escape God’s wrath by hiding behind a lie; for God will strip from the soul the refuge of lies. That refuge for the covering up of sin must now be torn away, in order that poor deluded souls may not sleep on to their everlasting ruin. Let this work be done with faithfulness, and in love. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 44

Soliciting Subscriptions for our Periodicals. A mistake has been made in soliciting subscriptions for our periodicals for only a few weeks, when by a proper effort much longer subscriptions might have been obtained. One yearly subscription is of more value than many for a short time. When the paper is taken for only a few months, the interest often ends with the short subscription. Few renew their subscriptions for a longer period, and thus there is a large outlay of time that brings small returns, when, with a little more tact and perseverance, yearly subscriptions might have been obtained. You strike too low, brethren, you are too narrow in your plans. You do not put into your work all the tact and perseverance that it deserves. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 45

While short subscriptions are accepted, some will not make the effort necessary to obtain them for a longer time. Canvassers should not go over the ground in a careless, unconcerned manner. They should feel that they are God’s workmen, and the love of souls should lead them to make every effort to enlighten men and women in regard to the truth. Providence and grace, means and ends, are closely connected. When His laborers do the very best they can, God does for them that which they cannot do for themselves; but no one need expect to succeed independently and by his own exertions. There must be activity united with firm trust in God. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 46

Canvassing for Secular Books. In this age the trivial is praised and magnified. There is a call for anything that will create a sensation and make a sale. The country is flooded with utterly worthless publications, which were written for the sake of making money, while really valuable books are unsold and unread. Those who handle this sensational literature, because by so doing they can make higher wages, are missing a precious opportunity of doing good. 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 for the purpose of diffusing light. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 47

My heart aches as I see those who profess to be looking for Christ’s coming devoting their time and talents to circulating books that contain nothing concerning the special truth for our time—books of narrative, books of biography, books of men’s theories and speculations. The world is full of such books; they can be had anywhere; but can the followers of Christ engage in so common a work, when there is crying need for God’s truth on every hand? It is not our mission to circulate such works. There are thousands of others to do this, who have as yet no knowledge of anything better. We have a definite mission, and we ought not to turn from it for side issues, employing men and means to bring to the attention of the people books that have no bearing upon the present truth. The angels of God do not accompany those who do cheap service for worldly profit when there is earnest service to be done in which they can be laborers together with God. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 48


The world is deluged with books that might better be consumed rather than be circulated. Books upon Indian warfare and similar topics, published and circulated as a money-making scheme, might better never be read. 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. 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 acts of human beings are giving publicity to evil work. 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. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 49

There is another class of books, love stories and frivolous and exciting tales, that are a curse to every one who reads them. The author may attach a good moral, and religious sentiments may be woven all through these books, yet 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 that upon which it feeds. The readers of frivolous, 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. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 50

I have been shown that the youth 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 a fearful work upon human minds, and corrupting human hearts. Satan is constantly leading both the youth and those of mature age to be charmed with feeble stories. None are so confirmed in right principles, so secure from temptation, that they can feel safe, and think that no one need be anxious about them. All this trashy reading should be resolutely discarded. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 51

We have no permission from the Lord to engage in either the printing or the sale of such publications, for they are the means of destroying many souls. I know 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. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 52

A Caution. No canvasser should exalt the book for which he is working above others that set forth the truth for this time. Should our canvassers drop all but one book, and concentrate their energies on that, the work would not be carried on as God would have it. It is necessary that a variety of books should be in the field, as minds are not constituted alike, and what would be food to one might fail to interest another. Some classes would be more benefited by papers and tracts than by books, and it will be necessary for the canvasser to make a wise selection of his books. Let no one who is doing the work of God become one-sided and short-sighted. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 53

The Lord has many instrumentalities through which He designs to work. When one book is exalted above another, there is danger that the very work best adapted to give light to the people will be crowded out. There is no need of contrasting different books, and judging as to which will do most good, and then pushing to the wall the one that is weakest, for the advancement of another. God has a place for all the voices and all the pens that He has inspired to utterance for Him. It will be difficult for some minds to fathom our most profound works, and a simpler way of putting the truth will reach them more readily. Let the leading workers encourage the weaker ones, and show an equal interest in every one of the instrumentalities set in motion to prepare a people for the day of the Lord. ... 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 54

Papers and pamphlets and tracts all need attention in the canvassing work, for they are as little wedges that open the way for larger works. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 55

Extracts from a letter written, May 27, 1896: 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 56

“I have been shown that you also are in danger of making serious mistakes. You feel a deep interest in the circulation of the health publications; and this is right; but that special branch is not to be made all-absorbing. The health reform is as closely related to the third angel’s message as the arm to the body, but the arm cannot take the place of the body. The proclamation of the third angel’s message, the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, is the burden of our work. The message is to be proclaimed with a loud cry, and is to go to the whole world. The presentation of health principles must be united with this message, but must not be independent of it, or in any way take the place of it. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 57

“I was shown that the strong presentation of the health line of work is causing it to absorb more attention than should be given to any one branch. There must be a well-balanced, symmetrical development of the work in all its parts. You, my brother, should not press the workers to handle the health books as Bible Readings was handled. Matters are now taking that phase. The glowing impressions given to the canvassers in regard to this one branch result in excluding from the field other works that must come before the people. You know I would have the health books occupy their proper place, but they are only one of the many lines in the great work to be done. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 58

“Canvassers should not be taught that one book or one class of books is to occupy the field to the neglect of all others. Among the workers are always some who can be swayed in almost any direction. Those who have charge of the canvassing work should be men of well-balanced minds, who can discern the relation of each part of the field to the great whole. Let them give due attention to the circulation of health books, but not make this line so prominent as to draw men away from other lines of vital interest. It is my prayer that you may not move unadvisedly in this matter, and exercise an influence that shall lead men to dishonor God by neglecting the very things essential to come before the people at this time.” 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 59


The Canvasser and Bible Work. Letters have been received by me making inquiries in regard to the particular duties that devolve upon the canvasser. Some have said that in their experience in visiting the people, they have found favorable opportunities for presenting the truth for this time, and have even been forced into holding Bible readings. They have said they could not conscientiously pass by those who were interested, or neglect these favorable opportunities for presenting to earnest inquirers the great truth that means so much to us. On the other hand, letters come, saying that our canvassers are not doing the work which is given them to do, but are occupying their time in giving Bible-readings upon doctrinal points of faith, and that thereby prejudice is roused and canvassers have difficulty in delivering their books; and some are asking in what way they shall deal with this difficulty. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 60

We think that there is truth in both these statements—that canvassers find favorable opportunity for leading the people to a better understanding of the Bible, and that, because of the way they meet these opportunities, prejudice is aroused and the work hindered. When the canvasser enters upon his line of work, he should not allow himself to be diverted from his work, but should intelligently keep to the point with all diligence. And yet, while he is doing his canvassing, he should not be heedless of opportunities to help souls who are seeking for light, and who need the consolation of the Scriptures. There are many who have met with trial and disappointment, whose hearts have been made tender by sorrow or affliction, whom the Holy Spirit is drawing unto Christ. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 61

If the canvasser walks with God, if he prays for heavenly wisdom that he may do good and only good in his labor, he will be quick to discern his opportunities and the need of souls with whom he comes in contact. He will make the most of his opportunities to draw souls to Christ, not dwelling on doctrinal subjects, but upon the love of God, upon His mercy and goodness in devising the plan of salvation. He will not hold a controversy with the people. In the spirit of Christ he will be ready to speak the Word of Christ to him who is weary. If, as faithful, true workers, canvassers have learned the trade to which they are called, from the nature of their work, they will be equipped with right words and actions, adapted to the circumstances of those with whom they come in contact. It would not be proper, nor would good results ensue, to present doctrines to souls who are entirely ignorant of our faith. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 62

The great need of the soul is to know God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent. The Bible abounds in practical lessons, which the canvasser may safely present to the people. If he can by this means enlighten their darkened minds, and bring into the sanctuary of the soul a knowledge of what practical religion means, he will be feeding the people. The inexhaustible theme of the love of God in giving His Son to die for the sins of the world can safely be presented. The canvasser can say to the inquiring soul, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” [John 1:29.] 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 63

Let the canvasser go forth with this prayer upon his lips, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” [Acts 9:6.] Let him labor as in the light of God and in the presence of heavenly angels; let him desire to be approved of God in all things, having an eye single to His glory, and he will not be fruitless in the work which he has undertaken. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 64

The claims of God are to be ever before our eyes, and we are never to forget that we are to give an account of the deeds done in the body. Weighted with this thought, canvassers will watch for souls, and their prayer will go forth from unfeigned lips, asking for wisdom to speak a word in season to those who need help. Workers of this kind will continually be elevating and purifying the soul through the sanctifying influence of the truth. They will feel the value of souls, and will make the most of the priceless opportunities granted them to make known the riches of the grace of Christ to those who are in poverty and darkness. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 65

In order to enlighten souls, it is not necessary to bring up controverted points of doctrine, and thus create opposition. Christ is the center of all our faith and hope. Those who can preach the matchless love of God, those who with softened heart can lift up Jesus, and inspire hearts to give Him their best and holiest affections, are doing a high and holy work. By diligence in canvassing, by faithfully presenting to the people the cross of Calvary, the canvasser doubles his powers of usefulness. But while we present these methods of work, we cannot lay out an undeviating line in which every one shall move, for circumstances alter cases. God will impress those whose hearts are open to truth, who are longing for guidance, and He will say to His human agent, Speak to this one or that one of the love of Jesus. No sooner is the name of Jesus mentioned in love and tenderness than angels of God draw near, and soften and subdue the heart. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 66

Doctrines of all kinds are proclaimed with no special effect, for men expect that others will seek to press upon them their doctrines; but when the matchless love of Jesus is dwelt upon, the grace of Christ is there to make its impression upon the heart. There are many who are sincerely seeking for light, who know not what they must do to be saved. O tell them of the love of God, of the sacrifice Christ made on Calvary’s cross to save souls from perishing. Tell them to place their will on the side of God’s will, and the Lord will open the way before them. Tell them, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God.” [John 7:17.] 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 67

We are individually to put on the Lord Jesus Christ. To each one of us He must become wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. As we have living faith in Christ to appropriate Him as our personal Saviour, we shall have power to place Him before others in a new light. When the people see Christ as He is, they will not begin to wrangle over doctrines, but will flee to Jesus for pardon, purity, and eternal life. No one can be a successful soul-winner till he himself has settled the question of surrender to God. In laboring for others we shall find that many are slow to comprehend the simplicity of godliness, but when once they look and live, the condition is met upon which the approval of God is bestowed. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 68

The difficulty most to be dreaded is that the canvasser who meets these inquiring souls has not himself been converted, has not himself experienced the love of Jesus which passeth knowledge. If he has not himself experienced the love of Christ, how can he tell souls the precious, old, old story? The people are in need of having presented before them the very essence of true faith, of having brought to their minds the very way to accept Christ, and to confide in Him as their personal Saviour. They need to know how they may follow His steps whithersoever He goeth. Let the feet of the worker follow step by step the footprints of Jesus, and mark out no other way in which to proceed onward and heavenward. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 69

When a soul has been brought to Jesus through this kind of personal labor, leave the surrendered, humbled heart for God to work with, and let God impose upon him just such burdens and urge upon him just such service as He sees fit. God has given His pledge that His grace shall be sufficient for every one who will listen to His invitation and come unto Him. Jesus says, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me; so shall he be my disciple.” [See Matthew 16:24; John 15:8.] 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 70

This is the kind of enlightenment the people need. They have heard doctrines until they are disgusted. Let the Lord Jesus Christ be the sum and substance of everything. If the people surrender to Jesus, if they open the door of their hearts and invite Him in, they will be in safe keeping. Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” [John 14:6.] Possessing Jesus, they will possess truth; for if they follow on to know the Lord, they will know that His goings forth are prepared as the morning. They will be complete in Him. In our work we need far less controversy, and far more presentation of Christ. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 71

Many professed Christians make themselves a center. They have broken away from the great Center, Jesus Christ; but if they would attract souls to Him, they must flee back to Christ, and realize their utter dependence upon Him. Satan has tried his uttermost to lay hold of and sever the chain that unites and binds men to God, that he may bind the souls for whom Christ has died to his own car, and make slaves of them in his service; but we are to work against him, and draw men to the Redeemer of the world. By exemplifying the love of Jesus in the life, by telling men what they must do in order to be saved, canvassers will themselves be blessed, and will receive light as they impart light to others. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 72

Let canvassers be faithful students, learning how to be most successful, and while they are thus employed, let them keep their eyes and ears and understanding open to receive wisdom from God, that they may know how to help those who are perishing for lack of a knowledge of Christ. Let every worker concentrate his energies and use his powers for the highest of all service—to recover men from the snare of Satan and bind them to God, making the chain of dependence through Jesus Christ fast to the throne encircled with the rainbow of promise. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 73

I cannot see why the canvassing work is not as good and successful a work as can be done for the Lord. Canvassers can become acquainted with the people. They can pray with them, and can understand their true necessities. From the light which God has given me, there is much responsibility resting upon the canvassers. They should go to their work prepared to explain the Scriptures, and nothing should be said or done to bind their hands. If they put their trust in the Lord as they travel from place to place, the angels of God will be round about them, giving them words to speak which will give life and hope and courage to many souls. Were it not for the work of the canvasser, many would never hear the truth. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 74

The canvasser should carry with him books and pamphlets and tracts to give away to those who cannot buy books from him. In this way the truth can be introduced into many homes. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 75

Of all the gifts which God has given to man, none is more noble or a greater blessing than the gift of speech, if it is sanctified by the Holy Spirit. It is with the tongue that we convince and persuade; with it we offer prayer and praise to God; and with it we convey rich thoughts of the Redeemer’s love. By this work, the canvasser can scatter the seeds of truth, causing the light from the Word of God to shine into many minds. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 76

There are some who are adapted to the work of a colporteur, and who can accomplish far more in this line than in preaching. If the Spirit of Christ dwells in their own hearts, they will find opportunity to present His words to others, and to direct their minds to the special truths for this time. But they will need wisdom to know what to say, and what to leave unsaid. All points of our faith are not to be introduced indiscriminately. We should be careful not to arouse a combative spirit. There is enough to talk about that will not excite opposition, and that will open the heart to desire a deeper knowledge of God’s Word. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 77

The love of Jesus in the soul will lead the canvasser to feel it a privilege to labor to diffuse light. He will study, plan, and pray over the matter. Jesus and holy angels will give success to the efforts of intelligent, God-fearing men who do all in their power to save souls. Quietly, modestly, with a heart overflowing with love, let them seek to win minds to investigate the truth, engaging in Bible readings when they can. By so doing they will be sowing the seed of truth beside all waters, showing forth the praises of Him who has called them out of darkness into His marvelous light. Those who are doing this work from right motives are doing an important work of ministry. They will manifest no feeble, undecided character. Their minds are enlarging, their manners are becoming more refined. They should place no bounds to their improvement, but every day be better fitted to do good work. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 78


We have a grand work to do for the Master, to open the Word of God to those who are in the darkness of error. Young friends, act as though you had a sacred charge. You should be Bible students, ever ready to give to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you. By your true Christian dignity, give evidence that you know you have a truth which it is for the interest of the people to hear. If this truth is inwrought in the soul, it will manifest itself in the countenance and demeanor, in a calm, noble self-possession and peace, which the Christian alone can possess. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 79

The Canvassing Work as a Preparation for the Ministry. There are more difficulties in this work than in some other branches of business; but the lessons that will be learned, the tact and discipline that will be acquired, will fit you for other fields of usefulness, where you will minister to souls. Those who poorly learn their lesson, and are careless and abrupt in approaching persons, would show the same defects of manner, the same want of tact and skill, in dealing with minds should they enter the ministry. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 80


I was shown some men whom God was calling to the work of the ministry entering the field as canvassers. This is an excellent preparation if their object is to disseminate light, to bring the truth revealed in God’s Word directly to the home circle. In conversation the way will frequently be opened to speak of the religion of the Bible. If the work is taken hold of as it should be, families will be visited, the workers will carry with them tender hearts and love for souls, and will bear, in words and deportment, the fragrance of the grace of Christ, and great good will be the result. This would be an excellent experience for any who have the ministry in view. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 81


Missionary work—introducing our publications into families, conversing, and praying with and for them—is a good work, and one which will educate men and women to do pastoral labor. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 82


But many are attracted into the canvassing work to sell books and pictures that do not express our faith and do not give light to the purchaser. They are induced to do this because the financial prospects are more flattering than can be offered them as licentiates. These persons are obtaining no special fitness for the gospel ministry. They are not gaining that experience which would fit them for the work. They are losing time and opportunities by this kind of labor. They are not learning to bear the burden of souls, and daily obtaining a knowledge of the most successful way of winning people to the truth. These men are frequently turned aside from the convictions of the Spirit of God, and [they] receive a worldly stamp of character, forgetting how much they owe to the Lord who gave His life for them. They use their powers for their own selfish interest and refuse to labor in the vineyard of the Lord. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 83

The Danger of Diverting Men from the Canvassing Work. Men suited to this work undertake it; but some injudicious minister will flatter them that their gifts should be employed in the desk, instead of simply in the work of the colporteur or canvasser. Thus this work is belittled. They are influenced to get a license to preach, and the very ones who might have been trained to make good missionaries to visit families at their homes, and talk and pray with them, are caught up to make poor ministers. And the field where so much labor is needed, and where so much good might be accomplished for the cause, is neglected. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 84

Ministers as Canvassers. I sincerely hope that no mind will receive the impression that it belittles a minister of the gospel to canvass. Hear the testimony of the apostle Paul: “Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, how I have been with you at all seasons serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews; and how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” Acts 20:18-21. The eloquent Paul, to whom God manifested Himself in a wonderful manner, went from house to house, with all humility of mind, and with many tears and temptations. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 85

I have been shown that the most precious ministry can be done by canvassing, and that by ministers. By doing this work, they will obtain a varied experience, and will be doing the very work that the apostle Paul did. I copy an extract from an appeal made to our brethren in regard to canvassing for our periodicals and books. “The canvassing work is an important field for labor; and the intelligent, God-fearing, truth-loving canvasser occupies a position equal to that of the gospel minister. Then should the canvasser feel at liberty, any more than the ordained minister, to act from selfish motives? Should he be unfaithful to all the principles of missionary work, and sell only those books that are cheapest and easiest to handle, neglecting to place before the people the books which will give most light, because by so doing he can earn more money for himself? 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 86

“The canvassing work is a missionary work, and the field must be worked from a missionary standpoint. Selfish interest, love of dignity and position, should not be once named amongst us. The thought of seeking to be greatest should never come into our minds.” 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 87

Closing Words. May the Lord help every one to improve to the utmost the talents committed to his trust. Those who work in this cause do not study their Bibles as they should. If they did, its practical teachings would have a practical bearing upon their lives. Whatever your work may be, dear brethren and sisters, do it for the Master, and do your best. Do not overlook present, golden opportunities and let your life prove a failure, while you sit idly dreaming of ease and success in a work for which God has never fitted you. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 88

Do the work that is nearest you. Do it, even though it may be amid perils and hardships in the missionary field. But do not, I beg of you, complain of hardship and self-sacrifice. Look at the Waldenses. See what plans they devised that the light of the gospel might shine into benighted minds. We should not labor with the expectation of receiving our reward in this life, but with our eyes fixed steadfastly upon the prize at the end of the race. Men and women are wanted now who are as true to duty as the needle to the pole—men and women who will work without having their way smoothed, and every obstacle removed. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 89

I have described what canvassers ought to be. May the Lord open their minds to comprehend this subject in its length and breadth, and may they realize their duty to represent the character of Christ by their patient courage and steadfast integrity. Let them remember that they can deny Him by a loose, lax, undecided character. Young men, if you take these principles with you into the canvassing field, you will be respected, and many will believe the truth you advocate—because your daily life is as a bright light set upon a candlestick, which gives light to all that are in the house. Even your enemies, as much as they may war against your doctrines, will respect you; and when you have gained this much, your simple words will have a power, and will carry conviction to hearts. 14LtMs, Ms 122, 1899, par. 90