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Manuscript Releases Volume Fifteen : Page 114

19. Overuse of Pictures a Species of Idolatry

(Written September 8, 1899, from Strathfield, N.S.W., Australia, to G. A. Irwin.)

A warning has been given me in regard to our people. I have been instructed that they are certainly in danger.

God declares, "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in the heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me, and keep My commandments" [Ex. 20:3-6].

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 of 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.


With this plain "Thus saith the Lord" before us, will we, claiming as we do to live by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God, be clear if we spend the Lord's money in multiplying faces?

Some things have been presented to me which I must set right. In my own home, one after another, pictures have accumulated. I see the same in every home to which I go. Is the Lord in this matter? Does not the charge in the twentieth chapter of Exodus prohibit this multitudinous picture-making which will continue to increase unless there is a decided reform, unless the people of God shall see that there is a decided reform, unless the people of God shall see that they are becoming idolaters? What shall be done in this matter?

I have light that to spend so much money in photographs is a species of idolatry. Thus means is consumed which should be used in missionary effort rather than in producing pictures which are not essential.

I take my position to no longer run the risk of displeasing God in this matter. I think that if in this our day of test and trial each one of us would study the words Moses was commanded to speak to the people, there would not be in the temple courts those who are in positions of sacred responsibility, yet are weaving into the web of sacred things threads of selfishness, using common fire in the place of the sacred fire of God's own kindling. May the Lord's Holy Spirit work upon human hearts and bring conviction to human minds. Those things of apparently little consequence attract the mind and eye, and absorb the attention at the very time when the attention should be given to God.


The question was asked, What does the care and anxiety, the delay in completing the books, and then sending them out weighty with cuts, amount to? The preparation for these attractions costs too much to be continued. The expense in more than one line was opened before me, and the necessity for delay to obtain tardy improvements of illustrations. I am burdened in spirit to say to my brethren who are engaged in book making, You are gathering to yourselves heavy burdens.

The transformation in our book making has not brought with it a corresponding transformation of character. The almost endless succession of wearisome research and delay and anxiety, and the great expense in increasing facilities to multiply illustrations is simply leading in advance in a species of idolatry. Harmonious spirit and action are not brought into the work, but instead rivalry and strife. The purse is strained to meet the demand; irrespective of the outlay, pictures must be obtained to meet the tastes of canvasser, publisher, and author. Spiritual rest is not secured by us because men do not yoke up with Christ to learn His meekness and lowliness of heart.

While angels are near, ready to make impressions of the highest value on minds, many, as they read on the Sabbath, are attracted by the pictures. They talk of the faces and the scenery. The mind is occupied by matters which are not of the least consequence in our service of God, which make impressions that close the door to spiritual things.

We do not show by keeping free from all cheap, common things, which cannot benefit our souls or the souls of others, that we realize that time is of the highest consequence to us. Too often our experience is of a character


that renders it of no value. Man is dwarfed spiritually in proportion as he invests unimportant means and instrumentalities that occupy the time and the mind in carrying them out, making work and business in religious lines take the place of genuine devotion. The process is easy, but what have you? A religious theory, without the Saviour's endorsement, "Well done, good and faithful servant."--Letter 145, 1899. Ellen G. White Estate Washington, D. C. September 5, 1985. Entire letter.