"GIVE THANKS unto the Lord, for he is good!" is the expression of our hearts as we sum up the activities of the fiscal year in the harvest work—from December, 1900, to December, 1901. We have not in all respects attained to our ideals set for the year just closed, but perhaps this was partly because of our high appreciation of the work and the workers, and of a laudable ambition to have each year exceed its predecessor in efforts and in results. And indeed, as the itemized reports will show, the work in all its branches has made good progress, and in some directions has exceeded that of any previous year. We have nothing but thanks to offer to our gracious Master for the privileges enjoyed at his hands in connection with his service, the service of the truth and of the brethren—and for his blessing so richly bestowed upon our humble efforts.
One of the most encouraging features of the work is the substantial increase in the number of Watch Tower readers—our list now numbering about 14,000. We had hoped that by this time it would have reached 16,000; we evidently were too sanguine. The Watch Tower list may properly be regarded as a sort of barometer respecting the progress of the truth, because the terms on which it is supplied surely permit all of the interested to be on its list—there are none so poor that they cannot have it if they will but comply with the standing offer which appears on the second page of each issue. We not only offer it free to the Lord's poor, but we offer credit to those who hope to be able to pay later; and we offer, further, that if they cannot pay later a postal card request, at any time, will secure a cancellation of the account. These being the terms we are considerably surprised to find, from time to time, many people who have considerable interest in the truth, and who have read and appreciated one or all of the Dawn volumes whose names are not on the list. An offer in our last issue we hope will correct this matter; and our proposition that each one now on the list shall act as a solicitor will, we believe, bring good results. We hope, with your co-operation, to be able to announce in our next annual report that the list has increased to sixteen thousand or above. Indeed, if each one could feel respecting this matter as we do—the importance of the regular semi-monthly visits of the Tower to those of the interested who are more or less disposed to be overcharged with the cares of this life—and if all would consider the matter as a service to the Lord, and to the brethren, and would at once proceed to do what they can in this direction, we have no doubt that our list would speedily run up to 20,000. We do not want the Tower to go to any one who would not appreciate and read it, but we are more than willing—we are anxious—to have all the interested on our list, regardless of their ability to pay for it—the extra expense will be cheerfully met out of the contributions to the Tract Fund. Let each make this a matter of prayer, and then do what he can in this direction, as a service unto the Lord and unto the brethren.
We continue to esteem the colporteur branch of the service one of the most important—in many respects it is the foundation of the work, so far as the public is concerned. It should be borne in mind that this is not a book-agent business, but a ministry of the truth of the true gospel; and the sixty-nine colporteurs now engaged in the service are in it, not for wealth nor for health, but for their love of the Lord and for their desire to lay down their lives on behalf of the brethren—to assist in extricating the Lord's people from the bondage of error and darkness, and to assist them into the marvelous light now shining for the people of God who are walking in the narrow way, the path of the just. Such being the motives of the service it will rightly be seen that the large number of books circulated by these dear friends does not by any means measure their service for the truth; for they deliver very many brief discourses in various homes where they fail to arouse sufficient interest to dispose of a book—an interest, nevertheless, which the days or weeks or years to come may bring to fruitage, as it has done to our knowledge in many instances.
The total number of copies of Millennial Dawn circulated during the last year is slightly less than the number for the previous year, but the decrease is in the foreign translations. The English edition shows an increase of about 9,000 copies. A condensed statement follows:—
" " —German.................. 2,464
" " —Swedish................. 2,373
" " —French.................. 681
" " —Dano-Norwegian.......... 216
This is a branch of the service in which there is always room for more—and the better the colporteur's education and general address the better both for himself and for the work. This ministry closely resembles that which the Lord instituted at the first advent, and, as then, it is usual for the friends to go in pairs. The message proclaimed is identical—the long-prayed-for Kingdom of Heaven at hand. And now, as then, authority and power go with these servants of the Lord, to assist those to whom they minister, who are exercising faith, by opening the blind eyes, unstopping the deaf ears, and casting out evil spirits. Only now it is the eyes of the understanding and the ears of the heart that are opened, and it is the spirit of selfishness and sin that is rebuked and cast out, in proportion as the spirit of the Lord is received. It is but proper that we should expect thus to see a higher work performed now than that done at the first advent, because this is the harvest of spiritual Israel, while that was the harvest of fleshly Israel.
We have no doubt that there are very many more of the dear friends of the truth who have consecrated their hearts and time and talent and influence to the Lord, who are carefully considering the great opportunities presented in this colporteur service, and making ready their arrangements to take part therein. We are glad to hear from such from time to time, and will co-operate with them in every way possible—for their entrance into and prosecution of this work.
This branch of the service circulated, during the past year, about a million of the free tracts, "Food for Thinking Christians." This was good, excellent, grand—about the same number as the previous year; nevertheless, it was disappointing to us, because we had expected that the interest in this Volunteer work would have increased at least a half; not that the former workers could do more than they had already done, but that we expected others to gradually become more zealous, and thus to increase the effectiveness of this service. This has been true in some places, where practically the entire congregations engaged; but in many places there has apparently been a little slackening of the hands, a little cooling of the ardor. Let us pray the Lord's blessing upon ourselves and upon each other in connection with the glorious opportunities of the harvest work and full appreciation of the privileges of a share therein; and that the Lord will send forth more laborers into his vineyard, to their spiritual profit and to the furtherance of his cause.
The Volunteer distribution represented a total of over eighteen and a half million pages. Surely all who took part in any measure have cause for gratitude to God for the privilege enjoyed and improved. Although there is no earthly reward connected with this service there surely is a spiritual reward experienced in the present time, as well as an exceeding great and precious one laid up for these faithful soldiers of the cross. We are well aware that it is not possible for all to engage in this service, and we are offering no criticism of those who do not engage. We merely desire to encourage those who have already had opportunity, and have availed themselves of it, and have taken up their cross in this service. We are sure that they are stronger spiritually for the efforts put forth.
We recognize no such divisions in the Church as are commonly, in the nominal churches, denominated [R2921 : page 389] "clergy" and "laity." We hold that the Scriptures teach that the entire Church is a priesthood: "Ye are a royal priesthood,...that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into this marvelous light." (1 Pet. 2:9.) We hold, therefore, that the Colporteurs, who take the Dawns and booklets and tracts from house to house, and the Volunteers, who make distributions of free literature every Sunday, and the brethren and sisters who have no such opportunities, but who find other ways of serving the Lord, the truth and the brethren, either more publicly or more privately, are all priests, ministers, preachers, as any may be pleased to term the Lord's servants. All have the same message to give forth, and all are ordained of God—anointed with the holy spirit, for this very purpose; as an authority to preach the good tidings. It is the privilege of each to serve according to his talents and opportunities, and all are acceptable to the Lord as ministers of the new covenant who faithfully seek to serve, not self, but the Lord and the brethren. It is not, therefore, to be understood that those who go forth under the auspices of our Society, to give their time specially to oral preaching (public and private) are any more authorized or ordained for the ministry in holy things than any others of the same "Royal Priesthood." We do not expect these brethren whom we designate as "Pilgrims," to be received as any more commissioned and authorized than any other of the Lord's brethren. You may understand, however, that when such come to you, they are so far as we have been enabled to know them, sound in the faith, apt to teach, possessed of good character, and fully consecrated to the service of the Lord, the truth and the brethren. Our judgment in this matter is not infallible, however, and even if it were, the Scriptural injunction is that the Lord's people are to test whatever they receive as truth by the sure standard, the divine Word, whoever presents it.
Sixteen* of these Pilgrim brethren have done considerable service throughout the year, their routes of travel being noted in the Watch Tower since June 1 issue. Their service is not for filthy lucre's sake—none of them are paid salaries, though all are comfortably provided for in every necessity out of the Society's funds, and in some instances provision is [R2922 : page 390] also made for their families. This, in a general way, was the method which prevailed at the first advent. Had the practice, of serving merely for expenses continued, we have every reason to believe that the nominal church would not be in its present condition—that its public servants would be freer to study the truth, and freer also to declare what they would learn.
Number of persons giving more or less of their
time in this Pilgrim service during the
Number of miles traveled in the service...........63,149
Number of churches visited........................ 634
Public meetings held.............................. 1,141
Private or parlor meetings held................... 745
Cost of this branch of the work................$3,255.28
We notice with pleasure that the number of private or parlor meetings held is proportionately more than last year, and the number of public meetings proportionately less. The public meetings are valuable, very favorable to deepening impressions which you have already made upon your friends and neighbors, by private conversation or through reading matter; but the private meetings we esteem to be the more valuable for the development of the household of faith already fairly clear in doctrinal matters. They are valuable as giving opportunities for bringing up points and questions which may have arisen in connection with their private or class studies. We are trusting that, under the Lord's providence, a great blessing will be upon this "Pilgrim" branch of the service for the coming year. All requests for "Pilgrim" service should be renewed now. See second page of our last issue.
This may be considered a part of the Pilgrim service deserving a special report. We held but one general convention, at Cleveland, O., a report of which has already been laid before you. We are of the opinion that these annual conventions furnish excellent opportunities for the Lord's people to assemble together. Such assemblies were provided for during the Jewish dispensation—we remember how our Lord and the apostles attended the feasts of Passover, etc., at Jerusalem. One special blessing which seems to result now, as then, is that representatives of the Lord's people in various quarters attend and carry home with them some measure of the love and zeal with which they become imbued, and thus in many directions the flame of sacred love is more brightly enkindled.
One-Day Conventions, addressed by the Editor, seem to continue popular with the friends, and, so far as we are able to judge, they are stimulating and helpful. The main service is always for the public, upon some theme calculated to arrest and fix the attention of new as well as old hearers. They serve also to advertise the meetings of the Church at each place, and to draw together the interested. Twenty-four of these conventions were held during the year, covering over twelve thousand miles—generally in places accessible by one night's travel, thus consuming as little of the Editor's time as possible from other departments of the service.
Hundreds of thousands of tracts are distributed free outside the regular "Volunteer" work noted above. Some have opportunities for using tracts amongst their friends or neighbors, and some enclose them with their correspondence. We are glad to co-operate with all in any such service, and from time to time hear of some upon whom impressions have been made by books or tracts thus circulated. In various ways the Lord seems to be reaching all who have the hearing ear, and in various ways also each, as he receives the truth, seeks to dispense it to others, according to his talents and opportunities. Each faithful one is blessed. Notice the total number of tracts circulated in the various ways, as stated in another column.
We esteem this one of the most helpful channels of service. Many write us, and upon a large variety of subjects—theological and practical; and their letters are welcomed and answered to the best of our ability. The Editor has three valuable assistants in this department of the service; nevertheless, he gives his personal attention to all important and doctrinal questions. While foolish questions are, of course, not desired, nevertheless we esteem that no question is trivial which may seem to any of you to have a bearing upon the character of your daily lives or your future prospects. Therefore be free to write us, and to permit us to assist you in any manner possible, freely, as unto the Lord.
Copies of Zion's Watch Tower.................
Copies of Old Theology tracts................ 2,591,500
These figures, expressed in the usual form
represent in tract pages.................... 83,675,000
Cost of above matter circulated free, including
freight, gas, help, etc.................... $14,904.56
Pilgrim expenses, etc....................... 3,255.28
Last year's deficit......................... 3,025.91
The financial showing, dear brethren, is remarkable, when it is remembered that no appeals are made for money and no collections taken up by the Pilgrims at any of their meetings, and no private solicitations made by them, or through the columns of the Watch Tower. Every donation, [R2922 : page 391] we therefore safely say is in the best and heartiest possible sense a voluntary one. We do not mention these things as though the amount were large. It would be considered ridiculously small, by other Bible and Tract Societies, principally heard from through appeals for money, and whose active collecting agents are usually given one-half of their collections as salary. The entire amount out of which we publish millions of tracts and pay the expenses of sixteen travelling preachers, etc., etc., would generally not be considered enough for the salaries of the principal officers.
Some may wonder, indeed, that we make mention of so small an amount at all, in view of the fact that we frequently see in the newspapers mention of single collections for religious and missionary work which amount to from three to six times the amount of our entire year's receipts from the Lord's people in all parts of the world. Our reply is that so far as we know the large proportion of those interested in present [R2923 : page 391] truth are poor in this world's goods, rich only in faith toward God and in zeal for his cause. As the Lord esteemed the two mites of the widow as "far more" than all the gifts of the rich, so we (and we believe the Lord also) esteem very highly the contributions sent us by the Lord's faithful; and we publish these annual statements that the dear friends may know how we strive to make every dollar do full duty—expending it according to our best judgment of what would be the divine will.
We want to mention incidentally that although we do not put money first in any case, nor recommend that the money talent is the superior one, nevertheless we wish to encourage those who are seeking to use their financial talents, by saying that in our judgment the Lord will be pleased to bless those who serve his cause financially, as well as those who serve otherwise—by oral or other preaching. Nevertheless, we encourage everyone of the Lord's people not to be content with the use of any one talent, but to seek to bring into active exercise as many talents as he finds himself possessed of.
May the Lord's blessing rest richly with us during the year beginning, giving more and more wisdom, that we may do those things pleasing in his sight; that we may be useful in his service; not as those who merely beat the air, but as those who accomplish something to the praise of our Lord and to the profit of his people.
We trust, dear friends, that you continually pray for the Editor and his colaborers in this service, that the Lord will use more and more your and our united efforts for his cause; and that he will bless and refresh us all while we do what we can to pour out blessings also upon others in his name.
The following report of the British Branch will be of interest. It closes the year with November 1st, when Brother Henninges turned over his charge there to his successor, Brother Hemery. A comparison with the report which appeared in our issue last year shows that our dear brother's faithfulness in the service there was abundantly blessed by our Lord. True, the financial statement shows a deficit of considerable amount, but this was fully anticipated and fully authorized by us, with a view to putting the work there upon a better footing. We congratulate Brother Henninges upon his success, and trust that in the Lord's providence his return to the Home Office will mean a shouldering by him of much of its responsibilities and a corresponding relief and greater liberty for the President of this Society (the Editor) for other departments of the work.
L. s d
Deficit from previous account................425. 1. 4
Paper and printing...........................201. 11. 3
Carriage and other expenses.................. 46. 15. 9
Pilgrim work................................. 42. 16. 5
Total.......................................716. 4. 9
Receipts from Great Britain..................178. 19. 10
Deficit.....................................537. 4. 11
Report of Literature Circulated.
Copies of Millennial Dawn.................... 15,740
Copies of Booklets........................... 2,918
Tracts sent out free......................... 498,675
Sample Watch Towers free..................... 49,500
Total copies sent free...................... 548,175
These represent Tract Pages.................. 14,774,400
Letters and cards received................... 3,047
Letters and cards sent....................... 4,071
In sending this report, we must acknowledge the Lord's gracious answers to prayer, and the operation of his Spirit in his dear people in this country, as shown in the substantial increase over the previous year of Dawns and Tracts put into circulation. The Lord has also sent more laborers into the harvest, in every department, sending forth such as can spend all their time and energy in the blessed service of colporteuring from house to house, and stirring up the zeal of those who cannot have this privilege in full measure, but can spend some time in this way. May their numbers and efficiency be further increased to the glory of God! The field is really white to harvest, and the time is short.
The "Volunteers" also deserve special mention for their faithfulness in conditions favorable and unfavorable. It will be observed that the number of tract pages freely circulated in Great Britain in the last twelve months is less than the total in our previous report, though the number of copies is more than twice as great. This is due to the smaller number [R2923 : page 392] of pages in "Food for Thinking Christians," as compared with the Volunteer Towers previously distributed. This great mass of free literature could not have been circulated here, but for the generous cooperation of the Allegheny office; and it might be remarked that our financial report takes no account of the expenses of printing the tracts received from America, and sent out from here. These represent 298,675 of the above mentioned copies of tracts sent out free.
Our successor, Brother Hemery, takes charge of the office from this date. We are sure that the friends of the truth in the territory served by this Branch will find in him a zealous and efficient co-laborer in every matter that would advance the interests of the work entrusted to him. As the brother is quite well known to most of the Tower readers in this country, more need not be said by us. We commend him to the grace of God, and to the prayers and active co-operation of all who love the truth. The church at Forest Gate has unanimously requested him to take up the pastoral duties vacated by us.
In retiring from this portion of the field we (speaking for Mrs. Henninges as well as myself) return thanks to God for the privileges we have had in connection with the work. Some "light afflictions" have befallen us, but we can give thanks for them also, since they have ministered to the increase of our joy in the Lord and his service. It has been a great pleasure to labor with and for the friends of the truth here, whom we have learned to love dearly in the Lord; and we desire at this time to assure them again of our grateful appreciation of the efforts they have put forth to make our sojourn among them pleasant and profitable. Though many miles may separate us, our intense interest in the welfare of the harvest work and workers in this land will not slack. May the Lord's favor be even more manifest to them in future than in the past!