General Conference Bulletin, vol. 4




Meeting Held at 5:30 A.M., April 18.

A. G. DANIELLS: The apostle Paul says: “Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding.” In the early days of this message, those who embraced it were earnest Bible students. They were hungry readers of the literature that was produced at the time, and were earnest workers in the cause to disseminate that which God gave them. I well remember how, when but a boy, my mother read her Bible; how she obtained every page of literature that came from our press; what pains she took to hand it around; and how she labored to make the truth known to others. We had but few preachers in Iowa at the time. For six months or a year, and sometimes two years, our church was left without seeing a preacher. But the members took the Review and Herald, the only paper published at the time. They purchased every tract that came from the press. GCB April 19, 1901, page 345.1

Although my mother was a poor woman, and had to work hard to support her fatherless children, yet so far as I know, for years she had a complete library of the literature of Seventh-day Adventist. Every paper, every book, every pamphlet that came out found its way to her home and these were all eagerly read and studied. My mother had a good knowledge of the truth as far as it was brought out in our publications at the time. GCB April 19, 1901, page 345.2

What I say of our own home was true of the homes of the majority of Seventh-day Adventists at that time. Our ministers who came to us brought publications with them. They usually carried a trunk of books with them, to supply the church, and would talk to the people about the importance of distributing our literature. We had no canvassers, and no missionary societies,—nothing but the church and the literature and a few preachers. But I want to tell you, that the people knew the truth; they loved it and worked to get the message before the people. GCB April 19, 1901, page 345.3

When a new tract or pamphlet was issued, the elder would call the brethren together, and call their attention to this new tract. He would say, “Brethren, what shall we do to get this to our neighbors?” The brethren would talk the matter over and arrange for every one to take a supply. One would say, “You may put me down to visit every family in this township, and I will put a track into every house.” So a large number of tracts would be sent for, and this brother would take his horse and sleigh, or go afoot, and visit all the families, and leave them reading matter. GCB April 19, 1901, page 345.4

Those were happy days in our little church in West Union, Ia.,—days of study, days of reading, days of prayer, and days of earnest service. The message was a great deal to the people then. But during late years my observation leads me to believe that we are growing careless about the study of the truth, the reading of our literature, the study of the message in the Word itself; and growing indifferent with reference to active service in making the truth known to our fellow men. I do believe that if the spirit that characterized the people in the early days of the message,—there would be such a flood of literature going out that the world would be supplied, our publishing houses would have little else to do than to furnish literature on the third angel’s message to give to this world. GCB April 19, 1901, page 345.5

But it is not for me to occupy the time of this meeting. I wanted to say a few words before turning our attention directly to the Reading Circle plan that has been in operation among us during the last year or so. I must not take time to say what we have tried to do in Australia. You have perhaps carried the work on more efficiently here, but I can say that the plan has been a God send to our people in Australia, and we have tried to get our people all over the country to read the word, to study the message, and the fields, and to work for the people as we did in the early days. God has blessed our young people, and all our people, as they have adopted this plan and given the message systematic study. GCB April 19, 1901, page 345.6

There are a number this morning who may speak, but first we will call on Sister Plummer, who has been acting as Corresponding Secretary of the International Tract Society and has been trying to advance this line of work, to say something about the plan and the idea, and what it seems can be accomplished in this way. GCB April 19, 1901, page 345.7

MRS. L. FLORA PLUMMER: Something of the conditions which led to the formation of what is now known as the Missionary Reading Circle has been already spoken of this morning. This work has been started since the close of the last General Conference, and I know that most of you are quite familiar with the lines upon which we have been working. But I have been asked to speak particularly of the plan of work and of its object. GCB April 19, 1901, page 345.8

Two years ago a Testimony was received by those at the head of the work in Battle Creek, setting forth a statement of what the churches were to do, and the expression was used: “A crisis in missionary work is upon us.” In studying this, and other Testimonies received previously, we found that the Spirit of the Lord had already revealed the condition of our churches, and our observation and experience among the churches testified to the truth of the statement. GCB April 19, 1901, page 345.9

I wish to read a paragraph from “Appeal for Home Missionary Work,” page 10. After laying out quite clearly and definitely the work that the churches should do in missionary lines, this statement is made: “It is evident that all the sermons that have been preached have not brought up this kind of labor, and the churches are withering up because they have failed to use their talents in diffusing the light of truth to others. Careful instruction should be given that will be as lessons from the Master, that all may put their light to practical use in benefiting others.” On page 20 of the same work we have this: “A death-like slumber is upon the human agents, and the work is hindered by failure of the human to co-operate with the divine.” GCB April 19, 1901, page 345.10

In these extracts and in many others that might be read, the situation is pointed out clearly and definitely, and in the same connection the remedy is also pointed out. Here is another statement on page 15: “Well-organized work must be done in the church, that its members may understand the manner in which they may impart light to others, and thus strengthen their own faith and increase their knowledge. As they impart the light which God graciously bestows upon them, to those in darkness, they will be confirmed in the faith.” GCB April 19, 1901, page 345.11

I need only refer to other familiar Testimonies to bring to mind the effect upon our churches of much of the help that has been given them. The instruction has been given to all our ministers and to those who labor for our churches, that they should not simply go to the churches and hold preaching services, thus teaching the people to rely upon the minister for the kind of help which never can be received in that way. Not one-tenth of the strength which might be received by the church if they engaged in missionary effort themselves, is received by means of the ministrations of those who simply preach to the people.” GCB April 19, 1901, page 345.12

In studying this situation, and the remedy, as pointed out by the Spirit of God, it was evident that we must return to the old time ways of which Elder Daniells has just spoken—the time when our people everywhere were actively engaged in spreading the light of the truth. In that way they themselves became strong, received much of the power of God, and the love of the message filled their hearts. They went to neighbors and friends with hearts overflowing with love for the truth of God, and with love for humanity, and many were brought in. Now that same condition must be restored to the church if the same power and strength shall attend it. It seemed very clear that the first step toward bringing about a general revival of missionary effort must be in the line of preparation. In the old days, the people studied the truth, and studied their Bibles, and studied our literature, and they were all founded upon the principles of our faith; but we read from the Testimonies that the love of the truth is dying out of the hearts that received it in that way. If the study of the message brought life and power to them in the first place, what will restore it? Has the message lost its power? Has the truth of God become weak and inefficient in revivifying hearts?—Certainly not, and the same course pursued to-day will bring the same results that were brought in the days when the message was first started. For that reason, the lessons on Daniel and Revelation, using the book “Thoughts on Daniel and the Revelation” as a help in that study, were planned. GCB April 19, 1901, page 346.1

Afterward the Bible study was combined with the field study, as planned by the Foreign Mission Board. I need not speak of the necessity of the study of the field. We who are here this morning understand that. Some of us who have tried to help the people in this study are finding that our ideas have been altogether too narrow. Since coming to this Conference, we have heard those things that have caused our hearts to enlarge, and to go out in sympathy to those countries beyond our borders. If we have been made to feel our need, what about the people who are not here, and who have not had the advantages we have enjoyed. It would certainly seem that a study of the field ought to accompany the study of the message. There are no two lines of work that to my mind seem to harmonize more perfectly and more thoroughly, each fitting into the other, than those two lines of study. And it is these two lines of study that have been combined into what is now known as the Missionary Reading Circle. GCB April 19, 1901, page 346.2

Now with reference to the plan: The instruction by the spirit of prophecy is that simple plans shall be formed, that the work shall be conducted in simplicity, that no elaborate methods shall be employed. We have tried to follow that instruction in the Reading Circle work. All that is necessary to become a member of the Reading Circle is to take the lessons and study them. There has been no particular organization that the people were asked to join; no special set of officers to be elected,—everything was to be done by the church, and in the homes of the people. Persons have written asking, “What instruction can you give about organizing the Reading Circle work in our place?” The very fact that it was so simple seems to have been almost a stumbling block in the minds of some; but still we think that that part of the work has been conducted on right lines, that the work should be simple, so that everywhere our people should understand that all the formality connected with it is simply for them to take up the study of the lessons in their homes and in the churches, and all who study the lessons in this way, are members of the Missionary Reading Circle. GCB April 19, 1901, page 346.3

The first year a lesson each week was given in the Bible study, and also a lesson each week upon the field study. The past year the plan has been changed somewhat, and three Bible lessons each month have been given, and one field lesson; so that the work has only required one lesson to be learned each week. It was urged especially, or was in the mind of those who have worked in the interest of this branch, that the most essential point to be considered and desired was the home study. People have written, workers here have written, and offered as an objection to the Reading Circle work that the churches were scattered, and the people could not meet together; therefore their members could not take up the Reading Circle work. GCB April 19, 1901, page 346.4

The idea that this work must be done in the home has been urged above everything else; and you can see the reason for it. The larger part of our membership are not situated so they can attend Bible schools and institutes, and very many of our young people will never see the inside of any of our educational institutions. In some way the help that is given to them must come to them where they are in their homes, and the studies be conducted in such a way that they can get the benefit of it in their homes. It was with that idea in mind that we have urged that the people in their homes study these lessons. To be sure, we have not lost sight of the value that can come from a united study in the church; and where this has been practiced, it has been advised; but it has not been made the principal part of the work. GCB April 19, 1901, page 346.5

Just one word upon the review meetings might be in place. What our people need is training. They need to know how to work; and there are not enough experienced laborers to go personally into each church, and say, “This is a good way to work,” or “That is a good way to work.” It was hoped that the review meetings, where held, might really take on the nature of a training school for the church. A little company of members might gain experience in presenting the truth, even to each other. They might get training and experience in expressing themselves. There are many of our people who can not intelligently give an answer for the reason of their faith, upon almost any point which we hold as a people. They do not know how to express their ideas. They have never had the training that is necessary in order to do that connectedly and intelligently. It was hoped that in these review meetings the leader might so plan the work that our young people and lay members might get an experience in talking the truth there in the review meeting, to each other, being a help to each other, and thus gaining an experience that shall be of practical help in carrying the truth to others. But I think that this idea has been very little carried out in our churches. It has usually been the case, where review meetings have been held, that the leader took up all the time in telling what he knew about the lesson. In that way the real object of that work has been largely lost, yet I have knowledge of a few places where the results have been all that could be desired in that respect. GCB April 19, 1901, page 346.6

This is about the sum and substance of the plan,—taking the lesson each week as it came, whether it be the Bible study or the study of the field, encouraging the people in their homes, as families, parents and children together, to study these precious truths; and it was hoped that the love of the truth might be so revived in their hearts, and each one so feel the urgency of it, that all would take those precious truths that they had studied in their home, to those about them, and that as they came together in the review meetings, they might be a help to each other in studying and training themselves in the best methods of extending that truth. That is the plan. The object, as I said in the beginning, was that it should be a basis, a foundation, for the revival of the old-time missionary spirit that will usher in the loud cry in all its fullness to this people. GCB April 19, 1901, page 346.7

I can not take time this morning to tell you of what has been done, and the very nature of the plan is such that it is very difficult to get any statistics that accurately represent the work; but in BULLETIN No. 12, you will find a report that gives some idea of the progress of the work, compiled from the reports that have been made by those working in the Conferences in behalf of this work. None of us, however, will think of measuring the success of any part of the work of God by figures. It can not be done in that way. GCB April 19, 1901, page 347.1

Just a word in closing: I have felt my heart stirred as I have come to this meeting day after day, and a sense of the responsibility that came upon me as one who had heard these precious things, has rested down upon me in an almost insupportable way. I presume that many here could testify to the same thing. The picture before my mind this morning is not this audience, but it is the people in our local churches. They have not had the privileges that we have had. Many of our general laborers, in attending our camp-meetings and large general meetings, never come in contact with the most needy classes of our people. I know that to be a fact, because in what little work I have been permitted to do in the cause of the Lord, I have been brought in contact with these people in their homes and in their churches, and I know that many do not have the privileges that some of our people enjoy. Our lay members are a busy people. Many of them are cumbered with much serving. There are many whose hearts are overcharged with the cares of this life. Yet they are the very people who must come up to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty. GCB April 19, 1901, page 347.2

There never will be enough ministers, there never will be enough Bible workers, there never will be enough trained canvassers, to carry this message to all parts of the world. We must in some way arouse the latent talent in our home churches, that the common people may rise up in their might and in their power, and do the work that God has appointed them to do. [Voices: Amen!] They must do that, if they themselves shall be saved, and they must do that, that the world may be warned. What would it mean if the people in our local churches were all awake to the situation as they should be?—It means that the work in the home field would be largely carried by our brethren and sisters, and the releasing of a great number of our laborers who now devote their whole strength and time and energy to the churches, for the missions in the dark parts of the world. There is where our trained workers must go; and our local churches must learn to be more self-helpful, more helpful to the work at home, more helpful to the work abroad; and until this condition of things is brought about, our weakness must be apparent to every one. GCB April 19, 1901, page 347.3

For the future of the Reading Circle work, as such, I have nothing to say. I do not know that the plans upon which we have been working are the best plans, and have nothing whatever to urge. I have only this to say: It seems inconsistent to plan for the evangelization of the world at large, and at the same time neglect the development of the resources by which this work must be done. Just how to develop that latent power that God has said is in his church, I do not know; but that is what we had hoped to help to do by the Missionary Reading Circle. The whole Circle was planned as a means of preparation for the missionary work which we felt that the churches must do. GCB April 19, 1901, page 347.4

If this is not the plan, something ought to be devised that will be the right thing; and when it is devised, or if it shall be decided that there is no better plan than this, each of us should remember that there is no one person or no two persons who can take up a work of that magnitude, and cause it to be felt throughout the borders of our land. [Voice: True.] It needs the co-operation of every worker in the cause of God. [Congregation: [Amen! Amen!] It needs more than “amens.” I have heard “amens” before. It needs more than that. [Voices: That is true.] It needs you help when you visit the churches, and that you talk of the thing that is planned to help that church. It means in the camp-meetings, in your large meetings, and everywhere, by pen and by voice, that you arouse the people, and not only arouse them, but at the same time point out the specific thing that has been planned to help them. You who are here, and those who stand at the head of the work, in State and Union Conferences,—you to whom the people look,—can do more to foster this work, build it up, and give it the right mold and the right standing among our people, than can any number of secretaries by simply corresponding with the churches without your help. GCB April 19, 1901, page 347.5

Any plan that may be devised needs the hearty co-operation of every worker. This spirit of saying, “O, we have such an one to look after that work, and I will go on in my own line,” has an effect upon our people that we do not realize. When persons are appointed to carry out certain lines of work, let it not be with the idea that the whole responsibility rests upon them, but that each laborer shall put his shoulder to the wheel, and see that the wheel moves. When this is done, I am sure that the blessing of the Lord will attend the work in all its parts. GCB April 19, 1901, page 347.6

A. G. Daniells: And a great blessing will come to the youth of our people who are growing up. In a recent revival meeting that I have been engaged in this country, there were no less than two hundred children, two hundred young men and young women, of the members of the church, who were brought before us for prayer. These had drifted away from the truth, given it up. Mothers and fathers came night after night to our inquiry meetings, saying, “I want you to pray for my son,” or “for my daughter.” GCB April 19, 1901, page 347.7

“Well, where is your son?” GCB April 19, 1901, page 347.8

“Why, he is at home.” GCB April 19, 1901, page 347.9

“How old is he?” GCB April 19, 1901, page 347.10

“Twenty.” GCB April 19, 1901, page 347.11

“What is his condition?” GCB April 19, 1901, page 347.12

“He has given up the truth.” GCB April 19, 1901, page 347.13

“Was he ever baptized?” GCB April 19, 1901, page 347.14

“Yes, when he was a little boy,” or perhaps “No.” GCB April 19, 1901, page 347.15

“Did he attend the Sabbath-school?” GCB April 19, 1901, page 347.16

“Yes, when he was little. When he was little he was all right. I had no trouble with him. But since he has grown up, from about fifteen, he has been drifting away, until to-day he won’t come to church, he does not keep the Sabbath, and he has no love for the message.” GCB April 19, 1901, page 347.17

I tell you, brethren, as I have heard these things, the situation has stirred my soul, and I know that there is something wrong. When father and mother heard the truth, they were in some other church, in the world, perhaps all wrapped up, yet the truth had such a power that it led them to sever their connection with old friends, with the church, with business, sacrifice all, and take their stand for an unpopular truth; and then that same truth has not the power to hold their children in their own families. There is a cause for this, and I believe that cause is that we are failing to study, failing to read, failing to bring this truth before the minds of our children in the way we ought. It does seem to me, and it has for a year or so, that this simple plan is the way to have the truth hold a sovereign power and position in the hearts of our children, and all the brethren and sisters everywhere. O, may God burn this into the hearts of all these laborers here this morning! GCB April 19, 1901, page 348.1

S. N. Haskell: It seems to me that some way must be devised by which our people will study their Bibles more than they have in the past. That is the object of this study that has been devised. It is that our brethren and sisters would in their own families, as has been stated by Sister Plummer, begin to study the Bible as we did formerly. This should be the case throughout our ranks. GCB April 19, 1901, page 348.2

The strength of every reform lies in the Bible, the word of God itself. It is not by methods that a reform is advanced and strengthened, but it is by the word itself. When the truth has been presented on any reformatory line, as in the days of the Reformation and in the early history of the third angel’s message, the people did study their Bibles. Everywhere they studied their Bibles, and the Lord blessed them in it. I remember the time when we would go around through the country traveling, to call on our brethren who were separated by long distances from one another. Perhaps we would arrive in time for dinner; but we never would get any dinner until we had a Bible study. I have known instances when our brethren in the country would have hay ready to bring in, yet they would desire to have a Bible reading before bringing in the hay, even when it threatened to rain. GCB April 19, 1901, page 348.3

That is the way the cause began. That is the secret of its success, and it has been the secret of success in every reform that God has had anything to do with in this world. But when the people have increased, they have depended on their ministers, and their ministers have depended on preaching. And so the people have loved the preaching, but they have died in the reform. Why is it that they can not live without the preaching?—Because the preachers do not instruct them to study. We are driving over the same road. Where, then, is our remedy? It has been stated here. It is in our people’s studying. But what will enable them to study? The ministers must teach them to study, and not simply to preach, and get off something that is new. They then think, that is a wonderful sermon; I wish that brother would come back and preach again; but what has he left? He has left a curiosity to hear the preacher. Suppose that preacher’s effort had been spent in instructing them how to study the Bible, he would have left something. That is the way it was in the beginning of this work. Those who were teachers or preachers left something behind, and that something which they left was to study the Bible, and so the cause grew up. We have come to a very important crisis in the history of this work. It is a question whether we will study the Bible for ourselves, or whether we will depend on our preachers. Individuals frequently say, “If we can not have preaching, then we can not get along.” If we get into that condition, that we must live on the preacher, or not live, we had better die. I wish we could all die, and get the new life which comes from the study of the word of God itself. GCB April 19, 1901, page 348.4

I thought, while sitting here and hearing what has been said, that all the plans might be laid in the world, the truth might be presented in its clearness in the Review and Herald, and if it were not studied, it would not do any good. But the time has come, brethren, when we must study. The effect of the Reading Circle, where it has been adopted, as far as I know, has been to hold together elements that otherwise would have given up the truth. I speak in particular of New York City, because there is where I have spent a large share of the winter. There were individuals that I believe were precious in the sight of God, but felt as if no one cared for their souls; and when we got together little groups, here and there, in different parts of the city, and studied that which appeared in the Review, these were encouraged and strengthened, and souls came into the truth. We found in the city where something of that kind was going on, a circle of some twenty-five that are interested in the truth. If I had expected to say much this morning before I came away, I would have brought a letter from an old teacher whose husband is an artist. It would do your souls good to hear it. They are in the truth, and waiting to be baptized. GCB April 19, 1901, page 348.5

I was surprised when we came through New York a few weeks ago. A man who was a Sabbath-keeper came down to the boat to meet us, and one of the first things he said, was, “We have been having a Reading Circle study among our neighbors, and some of them have got interested in it.” Get a person in the truth, and train him rightly to begin with, and he will always tell somebody else of it. GCB April 19, 1901, page 348.6

A. G. Daniells: I do wish we had another hour; for I am sure there are ministers here who would like to speak on this. Brother Corliss is anxious to speak, and I wish he might. We are going to give him the time to-morrow morning to talk on city work, but this is a live question, and it stirs every fiber of my being. Now what shall we do? Shall we let this plan drop? What do you say? [Many voices: No!] Well, if we shall not let it drop, what shall we do to make it a living, breathing, vital power? GCB April 19, 1901, page 348.7

[The Congregation: Take hold of it!] GCB April 19, 1901, page 348.8

Shall we go on just as we have the past year? or shall we take hold of it with determination? In order to make it a power, must we not give it thought and attention? Will not the officers in our ranks, Union and State Conferences, take it to heart, and bring it before their ministers, in their fields, and let the ministers bring it before the church officers, then let the church officers bring it before everybody, every member of the church. Shall we not, brethren, have a general move in this matter to help our people to study the truth of God? It seems to me that this is the remedy, and that it will bring power to us; so I do pray that we shall. GCB April 19, 1901, page 348.9

I hope before the meeting closes some of you will have so much interest in this Reading Circle work that you will bring it up again. I know if Sister White had the strength to come here, she would lay this matter bare before us; for I have heard her do it in Australia, and I have heard her do it in private, over and over again. She condemns us as ministers, and says we must turn our attention from this eternal preaching to disciplining and organizing and training the people to study and to work for themselves. [Congregation: Amen!] She says the poor, feeble, dying condition of our people to-day is the result of our continued preaching to them, without getting right down by their sides, and helping them to study for themselves as to how to go to work. GCB April 19, 1901, page 348.10