The Ladies Home Journal, December 1917

Woodrow Wilson message

President Woodrow Wilson urged Americans to read their Bible, not just in little snatches here and there, but long passages. This message was printed in New Testaments published by The Pocket Testament League and issued to the troops. Click the image to view an enlarged version.

The League worked hard to distribute Gospels during the First World War. In October 1914, Charles Alexander launched a campaign among soldiers on the Salisbury Plain, giving away 400,000 Testaments.

In December 1917, the popular magazine Ladies Home Journal published a full-page article about The Pocket Testament League. This article included a request to support the League's efforts to supply New Testaments to the troops overseas.

The Book That Stopped the Bullet
and keeps burning the camp fires of the soul

One of the most frequently recurring reports coming to us from the trenches is that men are more and more turning to religion and to the Bible for strength and for peace of mind and soul. As one author quotes a soldier: "Strange as it sounds -- and I'm far from being a religious man -- the biggest factor in the war is God! However little religion you've got at home, the biggest blackguard in the ranks prays as he goes into action." There are no skeptics in the trenches.

While we cannot speak here to any extent of the enormous work the Bible societies abroad have done, there are a few facts that one cannot pass by: No belligerent government has deliberately placed obstacles in the way of Bible distribution, and from the latest reports available, dated May, 1916, the offices of the British and Foreign Bible Society were still open in Berlin, Vienna and Constantinople -- seemingly the last resorts of trust; and the National Bible Society of Scotland reports that in 1917 its office is still open and the work maintained under famine conditions in Hungary.

There are many well-authenticated instances of copies of God's word shielding their owners from death upon the battlefield by receiving the bullets which otherwise would have inflicted mortal injuries. The present war has added many true instances.

A young officer was given a Bible which he had promised to carry in his hip pocket. This he had done. His mother had written on the flyleaf the verse from Psalm xci: "A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee." A shrapnel shell burst close to him, a piece of it struck the Bible and cut through Psalm xci, blackening the very page, but glanced off and the officer's life was saved.

The son of a titled woman, a young officer, serving at the Front, was killed and left in such condition that the only thing by which he was identified was one of the khaki "Active Service" Testaments having a Decision Card at the end, to which he had signed his name.

Roosevelt message

A wartime message from Theodore Roosevelt, who was then a Colonel, urges soldiers to walk humbly with God, even reflecting their treatment of prisoners. Click the image for a larger version.

Some have come to look upon the Book as a charm and do not like to go into the trenches without it.

The word "Bible" is here used in its broadest sense, as it is usually the New Testament that is distributed, no Bible having yet been printed with readable type, light enough in weight for a soldier's kit. The Testament usually is carried in his left breast pocket, over the heart. It weighs on average two ounces and a half.

Each of the New England states has its own Bible society; the Massachusetts Society, with offices in Boston, having already given 13,000 copies to its troops.

The New York Bible Society, with offices in the Bible House, New York City, confines its work to New York City and Harbor; the American Bible Society, with headquarters also in the Bible House, New York City, has branches in many states; while the Pocket Testament League, with an office in the Witherspoon Building, Philadelphia, is doing an exceptional work through chaplains and the YMCA.

So attractive in their different forms and bindings are the Testaments that one is fascinated by them. In one edition just issued will be found the President's message to the troops on Bible reading, while in another will be found messages from our best-known American General and our best-known American citizen, as illustrated on this page. The two latter messages are inserted in the Testaments given by the New York Bible Society to the men as they pass through New York, if they are not supplied.

The most popular form of the book which they distribute is bound in khaki-colored cloth with the flag and the words "Active Service Testament" embossed in self-color on the cover. In addition to the messages there is an "Emergency" list of selections for the soldier to read when he is lonely, troubled or in danger. Inside the back cover of the book is a page marked "My Decision" -- what it means to accept Christ as the Saviour - which the soldiers and sailors have signed by thousands. This society is aiming to place 100,000 copies in the army and navy as quickly as possible.

The American Bible Society, the biggest Bible producing organization in America, has been given the task of supplying one million Testaments for the armed forces for distribution through chaplains and the YMCA. Many of the men, of course, have their own Bibles, but not in convenient carrying form. The constitution of this society prevents its placing anything within the covers of the Bible except an identification page. But the books they issue are bound either in khaki color or khaki cloth for the army and in blue cloth for the navy, although both branches of the service seem to be using the former. Their books bear the imprint on the cover: "Army and Navy Edition."

Pershing message

General Pershing's wartime message to soldiers also exhorted them to consider the teachings of their Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ. Click the image for a larger version.

The work of the Pocket Testament League is unique in that it binds the reading of the Word with the acceptance of the book; a work that has already led 250,000 British soldiers to meet its simple requirements -- to carry the book with them and to read a chapter a day.

Freely distributed to all who will take are the cheery, comforting Gospels of John, bound in bright red, with every word wherein the Saviour shows the way of salvation marked in red. In this little book, too, are guides for becoming a Christian, a Decision page, twelve well-known hymns and eight full-page pictures of the Holy Land, which make the books even more attractive to the men. The beautiful little Testaments of the League, printed on India paper by the Oxford University Press, weighing only two ounces and a quarter, with the way of salvation, prayers, hymns, Decision page and fifteen full-color plates of the Holy Land, are given individually to those who will sign to carry and read.

Wonderful results have attended this definite work among the soldiers and sailors in this country during the past few months. The boys in the navy yards are coming from every state in the Union, and in one of the yards four hundred and twenty-four sailors in one evening signed to read and accepted the Testaments.

The question is often asked: "Do the men want the Testaments or are they thrust upon them?" One instance out of hundreds answers this question: At one of the forts in New York Harbor in one day before the men were transferred to concentration camps, one hundred and fifty soldiers called and personally asked for Testaments. A member of the Kansas Cavalry said: "I have neglected my Bible, but I am now beginning to find out that missing the reading of the Book is just like forgetting to brush one's teeth. It seems to make this unclean feeling come upon me, so with this in my mind I am now keeping up my reading pretty well."

What do these outstretched hands mean as they take the Word? This: that the boys who are offering to give their lives if need be for you and me, that we may sit in safety and sleep in peace, are asking for a light to guide their feet as they step out on their perilous way. They are seeking to know that lies beyond if death should claim them. They know that the only lamp worth anything to them is the lamp of life and that lamp is the Word of God. And so, with eagerness they are asking for Testaments. Ere they walk into the dark valley we can put the lamp of life into their hands. It is the least we can do.

Insert box in center of page:

A personal Service to the Troops

Testaments cannot be put into the hands of soldiers and sailors unless somebody pays for each copy. The Gospels cost only six cents each; the Testaments, from fifteen to forty cents according to the binding. How many will you give? You can equip for:

  • $2.00 --- a Squad... 8 men
  • $10.00 -- a Platoon... 40 men
  • $40.00 -- a Company... 160 men
  • $150.00 -- a Battalion... 600 men
  • $500.00 -- a Regiment... 2,000 men

If you want to help, send your contribution to any one of the addresses given, as you desire.

The article concludes with the quotations shown above from Woodrow Wilson, General Pershing and Theodore Roosevelt, and a small box containing the following text:

Here is an opportunity for every Sunday-school class, young people's society and man's or woman's organization in the church to render effective service.

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The Pocket Testament League is a 114 year old Christian outreach ministry that promotes personal evangelism.

Inspired by the vision of a teenage girl in 1893, membership now exceeds 190,000 members from many Christian denominations who have agreed to “read, carry and share” the Bible as the Word of God, and who have given away more than 100 million free Gospel of John books.