Life Sketches

14/18

12 THE TRACT SOCIETIES

THE press has been regarded by S. D. Adventists as the right arm of our strength. Our field of labor is the world. And as the number of our efficient preachers is small, a large portion of the work of giving the last message must of necessity be accomplished by our publications. LIFSK 358.1

While on a tour through Northern Michigan by carriage, in the year 1868, our company, composed of several carriage-loads, was enjoying the second meal of the day in the shade of a pasture-oak, when kind friends from the nearest house gave us a call. Mrs. W. suggested giving them tracts. These they received with apparent gratitude. We were soon at the home of Sister Jeffrey, at Ithaca. To this faithful woman, who now sleeps, Mrs. W. related the circumstance of giving tracts to kind strangers, and remarked that the Lord had shown her that a great work is to be accomplished in the circulation of such reading matter, and that a book fund should be raised for this purpose. The statement touched the heart of this mother in Israel, and she left the room. Soon after, she returned with five dollars for the book fund, and as she handed it to Mrs. W., the donor wiped the tears that were rapidly falling. LIFSK 358.2

At our first camp-meeting, held at Wright, Mich., Sept. 1-7, 1868, the sum of $1,400 was actually paid into the book fund, and pledges were taken on the ground sufficient to swell the sum to $2,400. The publication and circulation of tracts received especial attention, and during the three years that followed not less than $35,000 was paid into this fund for the circulation of our religious and health tracts. The work rapidly increased, and became so extensive that organization of the forces engaged in the tract work seemed necessary in order to economize labor and means. LIFSK 358.3

The first State tract society was organized in the New England Conference, November, 1870. In this country there are now twenty-two State and Territorial organizations, embracing Maine, New England, Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Dakota, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Kansas, Texas, California, Oregon, and Colorado. Local societies were organized in Switzerland, Norway, and Denmark in the years 1878 and 1879. The general tract society was organized August 15, 1874. LIFSK 359.1

The tract societies, in carrying forward their work during the past ten years, have employed not less than $150,000. Thousands of volumes of bound books have been placed in public libraries and on vessels. The number of pages of tracts and pamphlets which have been distributed by the societies, as near as can be gathered from printed reports, is 33,676,077. The number of periodicals distributed is 1,016,346. And let it be borne in mind that only thirty-seven per cent of the members of the societies have reported, and this is only eighteen per cent of the membership of the denomination. Had the full amount of all the work of the societies been reported, the number of pages would probably reach 50,000,000. Add to this the reading matter distributed before the organization of the societies, and by those outside of these societies, and the entire amount would probably reach LIFSK 359.2

100,000,000 pages, besides periodicals and health annuals. The entire sum of the pages of books, pamphlets, and tracts published by S. D. Adventists on all their presses is not less than 250,000,000. LIFSK 360.1

Those only who have a lively interest in the tract work, and have taken part in it, have a just idea of its magnitude and extent. LIFSK 360.2

Through the agency of the tract societies, periodicals and publications have been sent to all the States and Territories of our country, to the Canadas, Nova Scotia, England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Holland, France, Italy, Switzerland, Russia, Egypt, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, East and West Indias, Australia, Japan, China, Central and South America, Vancouver’s Island, Madeira Island, Cape of Good Hope, Finland, and to different points on the Mediterranean, Baltic, Red, and Black Seas. LIFSK 360.3

The great and good work which the Lord has accomplished through Elder S. N. Haskell and his fellow-laborers in the tract cause will not be fully seen and appreciated in this life. Time can never reveal the importance of this work; eternity alone will unfold it. Those whom the Lord led out in the organization of our Conferences, the several associations and societies, and in the equitable plan adopted by our people to raise funds for the support of the cause, had but a faint idea of the great and important work they were then doing. Neither can the friends of the cause now comprehend a tithe of the results of the Tract Institutes being held in the several Conferences. These schools are educating the members of the tract societies to do their work wisely and well. And this will create a demand for our publications such as the most sanguine have had but a faint idea of, and will constitute our presses indeed a power in the land. LIFSK 360.4

The men of this world understand the power of the printing-press. The politician seizes this lever to lift himself into office. Political campaigns are run principally through the press. Advertisements of this, that, and the other, posted and scattered everywhere, are evidences that the man of business understands the influence of the press. LIFSK 361.1

This is a reading age. Active minds must be employed. The people will read. The masses prefer fiction to fact. The writers, publishers, and sellers of fictitious works fully comprehend the situation, and for gain flood the world with light literature. Thus the devil seizes the press to turn the minds of the people from the real facts and duties of this life, and a preparation for the life to come. The minds of the young are fevered with fiction to that degree that they lose relish for solid reading. They are so completely filled with trash that there is but little room in their minds and hearts for that which is real and substantial. LIFSK 361.2

“Ye are the light of the world,” said Christ in his memorable sermon on the mount. “A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16. LIFSK 361.3

Christians should be as wise in their generation as the men of this world. They should seize upon every means, and every opportunity, to let their light shine. They should let it shine from the hill-top. They should do all in their power to dissipate the darkness of error by the light of divine truth. The press, which in the hands of the children of darkness is a power for evil, may, in the hands of the children of light, be a mighty power for good. Mrs. W., in an article headed “Our Publications,” in Testimony to the Church, No.29, speaks of our publications, their prices, their circulation, and the importance of training men for the work of canvassing, in these stirring words:- LIFSK 361.4

“Many of our publications have been thrown into the market at so low a figure that the profits are not sufficient to sustain our Offices and keep good a fund for continual use. And those of our people who have no special burden of the various branches of the work at Battle Creek, and at Oakland, do not become informed in regard to the wants of the cause, and the capital required to keep the business moving. They do not understand the liability to losses, and the expense every day occurring to such institutions. They seem to think that everything moves off without much care or outlay of means, and therefore they will urge the necessity of the lowest figures on our publications, thus leaving scarcely any margin. And after the prices have been reduced to almost ruinous figures, they manifest but a feeble interest in increasing the sales of the very books on which they have asked such low prices. This object gained, their burden ceases, when they ought to have an earnest interest and a real care to press the sale of the publications, thereby sowing the seeds of truth, and bringing means into the Offices to invest in other publications. LIFSK 362.1

“There has been, on the part of ministers, a very great neglect of duty in not interesting the churches in the localities where they labor, in regard to this matter. When once the prices of books are reduced, it is a very difficult matter to get them again upon a paying basis, as men of narrow minds will cry speculation, not discerning that no one man is benefited, and that God’s instrumentalities must not be crippled for want of capital. Books that ought to be widely circulated are lying useless in our Offices of publication, because there is not interest enough manifested to get them circulated. LIFSK 362.2

“The press is a power; but if its products fall dead for want of men who will execute plans to widely circulate them, its power is lost. While there has been a quick foresight to discern the necessity of laying out means in facilities to multiply books and tracts, plans to bring back the means invested, so as to reproduce our publications, have been neglected. The power of the press with all its advantages is in the hands of our people, and they can use it to the very best account, or they can be half asleep, and through inaction, lose the advantages which they might gain. They can extend the light, by judicious calculation, in the sale of books and pamphlets. They can send them into thousands of families who now sit in the darkness of error. LIFSK 363.1

“With other publishers, there are regular systems of introducing into the market books of no vital interest. ‘The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light.’ Golden opportunities occur almost daily where the silent messengers of truth might be introduced into families and to individuals; but no advantage is taken of these opportunities by the indolent, thoughtless ones. Living preachers are few. There is only one where there should be a hundred. Many are making a great mistake in not putting their talents to use in seeking to save the souls of their fellow-men. Hundreds of men should be engaged in carrying the light all through our cities, villages, and towns. The public mind must be agitated. LIFSK 363.2

“Missionaries are wanted everywhere. In all parts of the field canvassers should be selected, not from the floating element in society, not from men and women who are good for nothing else, and have made a success of nothing; but they should be persons of good address, of tact, keen foresight and ability. Such are needed to make a success as colporteurs, canvassers, and agents. Men suited to this work undertake it; but some injudicious minister will flatter them that their gift should be employed in the desk instead of simply working as colporteurs. Thus the work of the colporteur 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. LIFSK 364.1

“If there is one work more important than another, it is that of getting before the public such publications as will lead men to search the Scriptures. Missionary work - introducing our papers and books 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. LIFSK 364.2

“Every one is not fitted for this work. 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 faithfully carried out. Churches in every place should feel the deepest interest in the tract and missionary work. LIFSK 364.3

“We now have great facilities for spreading the truth, but our people are not coming up to the privileges given them. They do not see and sense the necessity in every church of using their abilities in saving souls. They do not realize their duty to obtain subscribers for our periodicals, including our health journal, and to introduce our books and pamphlets. 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 manners such as not to disgust the people. There is a great want of true politeness among us as a people. This should be cultivated by all those who take hold of the missionary work. LIFSK 365.1

“Our publishing houses should show marked prosperity. Our people can sustain them if they will show a decided interest to work our publications into the market. But, should as little interest be manifested in the year to come as has been shown in the year past, there will be but small margin to work upon. LIFSK 365.2

“The wider the circulation of our publications, the greater will be the demand for books that make plain the Scriptures of truth. Many are becoming disgusted with the inconsistencies, errors, and apostasy of the churches, and with the festivals, fairs, lotteries, and numerous inventions to extort money for church purposes. There are many who are seeking for light in the darkness. If our papers, tracts, and books, expressing the truth in plain Bible language, could be widely circulated, many would find that they are just what they want.” LIFSK 365.3

Since the foregoing extract appeared in print, favorable changes have taken place in book matters. More books have been shipped from this Office during the past six months than were shipped during the previous eighteen months. New works are in the press, and still others, of very great importance, are being prepared. Here is a good field of usefulness for young men who contemplate entering the ministry at some future time. The canvasser, in coming in contact with a great variety of minds, has a good opportunity to study human nature. He learns to come near the people, and adapt himself to changing circumstances, and hold on till he has accomplished his object. This is the self-training he needs to qualify him for the work of the last message, illustrated by the last urgent call in the parable of the great supper of Luke 14:16-24, “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in.” LIFSK 366.1