Counsels to Writers and Editors


Chapter 24—Illustrating Our Literature

Purpose of Pictures—The Lord desires His people to move understandingly and intelligently. They are not to create large expenses; yet everything is to be done in perfect order. Our books should be bound with good, durable covers. The sewing should be firm and strong. This should always be. But care should be exercised in the matter of illustrating. Much money should not be invested in this line. When there are lessons in the pictures which lead to a study of the book itself, it is well; but when the pictures draw the attention from the truth contained in the book to themselves, the effort to help the book by illustrations is a failure.—Letter 75, 1900. CW 167.1

Good Taste in Their Choice—Pictures to represent Bible scenes must be no cheap designs. True science of all kinds is distinction and power. He who by painstaking effort ascends step by step the ladder of human progress, must fix his eyes on the One above the ladder. The knowledge which God imparts is not of a character to belittle our ideas of sacred things. The glory of God must be kept before the mind's eye, not the cheap, earthly representations that imprint in the memory scenes which give a false conception of Christ and heavenly things. A proper illustration of Bible scenes requires talent of a superior quality. With these cheap, common productions, the sacred lessons of the Bible disdain comparison.... God forbid that we should please the devil by lowering the standard of eternal truth by using illustrations that men, women, and children will make sport of.—Manuscript 23, 1896. CW 167.2

A Temptation to Over-illustrate—I am much burdened in regard to some things urged upon my mind. I have written something in regard to the matter of picture making, especially for our books. The large investment of means for this purpose has been decidedly wrong. It is not pictures that we should feel a burden to present to the people; it is the truth, the subject matter, that they need. The work of illustrating is a constant temptation to tie up money. The very ones who need the books and would appreciate them, cannot obtain them because of their high price.... CW 168.1

Do not accept the temptations which will come to you with peculiar force to get out books which involve a large investment of money. The Lord is not in this matter. The thousands of dollars expended in illustrations could be invested in getting out books and selling them cheaply. As ministers attend tent meetings, they should have the privilege of taking these books with them, and selling them as cheaply as possible. With the money they receive above what the books have cost them, they should buy books to present to those of our people who cannot afford to purchase them, or to unbelievers, who may thus be brought to a knowledge of the truth.... CW 168.2

It is too late, altogether too late, to depend upon the expensive covers of a book, or its abundant illustrations, for its sale.... The books that the people need should be issued free from all display. The saving of the thousands of dollars expended in illustrations would make it possible for the books to be sold at a price that would enable many to obtain them. The Lord has not inspired this enthusiasm. It is a part of the work that has led away from the simplicity of the faith, which should characterize Seventh-day Adventists as a chosen generation, a peculiar people zealous of good works. Canvassers and artists have had much influence in deciding this subject of illustrations. CW 169.1

I have been surprised as the increased expense caused by illustrations has been laid before me.—Letter 133, 1899. CW 169.2

Extravagance in Illustrating—I have been shown that the abundant picture making for our periodicals and books is growing into an unsanctified ambition; and the dangers of rivalry are increasing to an alarming extent. The books we are sending out to the world are costing too much. Extravagance in illustrations costs time and money and creates worries which can and should be avoided. The Lord would have us keep the eye single to the glory of God. This infatuation for so abundant illustrations is not in God's order; it is the pulse of the world, and this is beating strongly in God's people at the present time. CW 169.3

In every line of the work economy must be practiced. All unnecessary expenditure must be avoided; for God is testing His people. There are missions to be opened in new fields. Men of God's appointment are to be raised up to step in their lot and place, and sound the grand testing message for this time. The word of the Lord must come to the people. The trumpet must give a certain sound. This is a life-and-death message, and it must not come uncertainly from the watchmen who stand on the walls of Zion.—Letter 147, 1899. CW 169.4

With Taste and Simplicity—In order to reach unbelievers, a manifestation of outward display is seen among our people; but this display will not accomplish the good that is represented. Our books are being filled with expensive pictures, and this makes them too costly to give away, and too costly for those persons to buy who need them most. The matter of illustrating is being carried to extremes. The extra money put into the cover of a book, or into pictures, will not convert the soul to the truths that are contained in the book. That so much space should be occupied with pictures is not in the order of God. There have been long delays in the publication of our works waiting for illustrations,—delays that could be ill-afforded, and which have kept from the people the truths which they should have had.... CW 170.1

Our books can be tastefully prepared, as all books should be; but our publishing houses are making a mistake in departing from the simplicity of the gospel. We are using the Lord's talent of means, and we must handle it wisely. The returns from this work of illustrating do not warrant such a large outlay of means. The income is not proportionate to the time and means spent in securing the cuts.—Manuscript 131, 1899. CW 170.2

Count the Cost—In the production of books containing valuable truth, men have failed to count the cost. They have failed to find out whether the illustrations provided under the representation of larger sales, were absorbing all the means, limiting the power to accomplish the work in other lines, work which needs to be done at once. Close examination should be made of the influence of this work upon the church and the world.—Letter 133, 1899. CW 171.1

Correctness Important—Should we not make investigation in regard to the matter of illustrating our books so largely? Would not the mind have clearer, more perfect ideas of angels, of Christ, of all spiritual things, if no pictures were made to represent heavenly things? Many of the pictures made are grossly false as far as truth is concerned. Do not pictures so far removed from the truth give voice to falsehoods? We want to be true in all our representations of Jesus Christ. But many of the miserable daubs put into our books and papers are an imposition on the public.—Letter 145, 1899. CW 171.2

Suitable Illustrations—The ideas of many in reference to the matters pertaining to God's work are too cheap. In the selection of pictures to illustrate holy things, a deficiency of wisdom has been shown that God cannot approve.—Letter 39, 1899. CW 171.3

An Instance of Poor Illustration—“The Ark Standing in the Midst of Jordan:” see the cherubim on either end of the ark. What a misrepresentation of the heavenly angels looking with reverence upon the mercy seat, the cover of the ark. A child might take the representation as a bird hunched up. But when the ark was removed from the sanctuary, the cherubim were never exposed to view. That sacred ark, which represented Jehovah amid His people, was always covered, that no curious eye might look upon it. Let it ever be covered.—Letter 28a, 1897. CW 171.4

No Scenes of Horror—Keep out of the books illustrations of auto-da-fe, Catholic pictures of persecution and burning. It is enough to read of these wicked deeds, without trying to bring them in all their terrible details before the eyes.—Letter 28a, 1897. CW 172.1

Choice Rather than Numerous—I am troubled in regard to the use of pictures in our publications. Some of our papers seem bent on using them in season and out of season. And some of the cuts used are very inferior, and poorly illustrate the subjects represented. I hope our publications will not come to resemble a comic almanac. I would not altogether condemn the use of pictures, but let fewer be used, and only such as are good illustrations of the subject ... If you choose to have a few pictures and good ones, I do not object. Let illustrations be choice rather than numerous.—Letter 28a, 1897. CW 172.2

Inappropriate Periodical Illustration—I was greatly pained to see on the first page of a recent issue of the Signs a picture of the birthplace of Shakespeare, accompanied by an article on Shakespeare. May the Lord pity our discernment if we have no better food than this to give the flock of God. It greatly distresses me to see those in positions of trust, who should daily be gaining a rich experience, placing such matter before the people. CW 172.3

Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He graciously condescends to dwell among them. Let those who are representing the truth for this time pray earnestly for clear spiritual discernment. Let them be sincerely jealous for the honor of the Lord God of hosts. Let them see the sinfulness of exalting such men as Shakespeare, calling the attention of people to those who did not in their lives honor God or represent Christ. CW 173.1

The men in responsible positions in God's work need to be renewed in the spirit of their mind. Let them lift their voices against the worship of human beings, giving honor to whom honor is due. The men who edit our papers need the divine touch. They need the unction of the Holy Spirit. CW 173.2

“What Do These Things Mean?”—I felt grieved and heartsick as I looked at the representation on the first page of the Signs to which I have referred. I asked myself, “What do these things mean?” I was so distressed in mind that I became sick in body. I went to bed at eight o'clock, and slept for a short time, about an hour, I think. Then I seemed to be standing before those in responsible positions in the Pacific Press, bearing them a message. The Spirit of God came upon me, and I could not forbear speaking. I cannot now write all that I said. I asked, “Where is your spiritual discernment or your good judgment, that you should thus sow tares among the wheat? Nothing is to appear in our literature that does not represent truth and righteousness.” CW 173.3

We have put forth earnest efforts to direct the minds of our young people in Oakland into right channels. At times they have been severely rebuked for yielding to pleasure loving, departing from the straightforward course of action that Heaven approves. But what can I say when our papers pass such encomiums on men who did not glorify God in life or character? Think you that such representations will help the youth to walk in the narrow path of holiness? CW 174.1

I do not see how a representation such as this, or such as that on the first page of a recent Review and Herald—the picture of an idolatrous shrine—can be any spiritual help to our people. CW 174.2

I feel intensely desirous that every word that is published by our people shall reflect light that will pierce through the dark shadow of Satan. Put in our papers the encouraging experiences that show the goodness and love of God in His dealings with His people. This will strengthen and cheer them. Make straight paths for your feet, lest the lame be turned out of the way. Keep the warning message of truth before the people; for the end is at hand. We are to cry aloud and spare not. Some will pay no heed, but others will repent and be converted. CW 174.3

Some things of great importance have been presented to me, but I have not the strength to write them this morning. When I attempt to do this, such an intensity of feeling comes over me that I am obliged to stop. CW 174.4

Spiritual Eyesight Needed—We need, O so greatly, keen discernment, clear spiritual eyesight. Our eyes need to be anointed with the heavenly eyesalve, that we may see all things clearly. The great and solemn truths for this time are to be proclaimed through our papers, and into these papers we are to bring all the spiritual power that we can. CW 174.5

Our lesson for the present time is, How may we most clearly comprehend and present the gospel that Christ came in person to present to John on the Isle of Patmos,—the gospel that is termed, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass.” “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, ... for the time is at hand.” CW 175.1

We are to proclaim to the world the great and solemn truths of Revelation. Into the very designs and principles of the church of God these truths are to enter.... CW 175.2

We have a most important work to do,—the work of proclaiming the third angel's message. We are facing the most important issues that men have ever been called to meet. All should understand the truths contained in the three messages; for they are essential to salvation. CW 175.3

My brethren, will you not give the flock of God bread, and not a stone? Never print in our papers a word that will lower the standard that God expects His people to meet. Call no man brilliant who has not the wisdom to choose the Lord Jesus Christ—the light and life of the world. The excellence of a man is determined by his possession of the virtues of Christ. Let us not look away from Christ to sinful human beings. The truth must be kept before the people. The standard of purity, temperance, and holiness must be uplifted. CW 175.4

It is impossible to say to what lengths the printing of such illustrations and articles would carry you. The paper would do as much and more good if less room were given to illustrations. CW 176.1

I was instructed to say that you could give a glowing description of Satan. You could speak of the greatness of his intelligence and power. You could charm the sense of those who read the Signs with this subject. But we know that it would not be right to do this. CW 176.2

I desire to place this matter before you as soon as possible, therefore I cannot take time to write fully on the matter. I am instructed to say that you have dishonored God. You did not mean to do this, but you have done it.—Letter 106, 1902. CW 176.3