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A Goodly Heritage (50): The Power of the Printed Page - Tracts and Booklets

James Brown, Peterhead, Scotland

The ‘Revivals’ section of this series, just concluded, has recounted the exploits of Whitefield, Wesley and Jonathan Edwards in the 18th century, Moody and Spurgeon in the 19th century, and others in the 20th century. Between these thrilling times of mighty harvests there were periods, sometimes lengthy, in which earnest Christians quietly lived and prayed and preached. Such blessed ones were continuing to “sow beside all waters” (Isa 32.20), by whatever means they could. By the 19th century, distribution of Christian literature had become a fruitful means of sowing the Seed, both at home and overseas. A good example was Duncan Matheson’s monthly Gospel magazine, The Herald of Mercy.¹ Another was the long series of ‘CS’ tracts published by the noted evangelist, Charles Stanley of Rotherham. Among the thousands of excellent Gospel booklets and tracts that have been written, a number have achieved longevity and remain well used many years after the death of their authors. Two classics of the genre are Safety, Certainty and Enjoyment and God’s Way of Salvation, written by George Cutting and Alexander Marshall respectively. Both are booklets rather than tracts, and give an extended presentation of Gospel truth.

George Cutting

Little is now known of George Cutting’s life. He was born in 1843, and was called from his earthly home in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, on 29th April 1934. In a letter, C H Mackintosh referred to Cutting as “my dear son in the faith”, inferring that CHM had been instrumental in his conversion. Mr Cutting was in fellowship among ‘exclusive’ brethren, and for some years laboured in the rural parts of the East Midlands. He was a true Gospeller, with a burden for souls. In his booklet How Shall They Hear?, with the sub-heading What is God’s way of reaching the millions who go nowhere?, he wrote that God has conferred on every believer on earth the honour of being a personal witness of the grace he has received. Further, he stressed our responsibility to go, citing a number of texts such as the Lord’s words to the delivered demoniac, “Go home to thy friends” (Mk 5.19); to the apostles, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel” (16.15); and to Philip, “Arise, and go toward the south” (Acts 8.26), and “Go near, and join thyself to this chariot” (v 29). Cutting’s style of writing may seem quaint, but the message remains relevant. Here is an example: “Big Ben lets all London know what his own sounding powers are, and Simon Magus gave out that ‘himself was some great one’. But Paul wrote we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord.” Mr Cutting also wrote the poem The Man in the Glory. Reading his delightful lines has warmed the hearts of thousands of the Lord’s people.

Safety, Certainty and Enjoyment

The title reflects the lines of thought pursued and explained in the content. Indeed, the booklet is of equal value to believers as to unbelievers, especially to any Christian who lacks assurance of their salvation. Safety is found in The Way of Salvation (Acts 16.17), Certainty is gained by The Knowledge of Salvation (Lk 1.77), and Enjoyment is experienced through The Joy of Salvation (Ps 51.12). The booklet abounds with pithy statements such as “It is not a question of the amount of your faith, but of the trustworthiness of the person you repose your confidence in”, and “Christ’s work and your salvation stand or fall together – Your walk and your enjoyment stand or fall together.” Cutting further explains that, for a believer, “His relationship depends upon his birth, his communion upon his behaviour.” We are exhorted to bear in mind two things: “There is nothing so strong as the link of relationship; and nothing so tender as the link of communion.” Many years ago, a young Christian went into a Bible and Tract Depot to purchase a supply of Safety, Certainty and Enjoyment booklets. On enquiring about the price, he was told that so long as the booklets were for free distribution there would be no charge. An eminent and famous person in public life had met the cost of printing a large supply for this purpose. The young man would never preach in public, and his name would never become well known, but he was prepared to do the very thing that George Cutting had so strongly exhorted.

Alexander Marshall

Alex Marshall’s lifespan was largely contemporary with George Cutting’s. He was born on 13th December 1846 in Stranraer, Wigtownshire. His godly parents followed him with their prayers as he left home for Glasgow when 18 years old. He was an ambitious and restless young man, but he did not find satisfaction in the world. Conviction and anxiety deepened when he heard Proverbs 29.1 quoted; “He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.” Two years after leaving home,  he was saved after hearing Gordon Furlong preach in Ingram Street. Marshall’s reading and study of his Bible led to his baptism and fellowship with brethren in West Campbell Street in the city. He soon began to preach in the open air, or in halls hired for the purpose. In 1875 he was commended to the grace of God, and commenced an itinerant ministry that stretched not only throughout the British Isles, but also to North America and many other lands.

Marshall’s methods were neither demonstrative, nor emotional: he used no undue pressure to gain converts, yet numbers were saved either during the preaching or having waited for the after-meetings, while others found peace at home, or turned up weeks afterward glorifying God for His salvation.2 While living in Toronto, he opened a bookstore from which supplies of Gospel literature were spread across Canada. A monthly magazine, The Gospel Herald, was established, and continued for many years. It was later in life, during the 1920s, that Mr Marshall wrote God’s Way of Salvation. In declining health he was no longer able to travel and preach, but he continued his interest in the printed page and its distribution until he was called Home on 9th August 1928.

God’s Way of Salvation

One has said that “God’s Way of Salvation might aptly be termed the essence of AM’s preaching.” Its discursive style has great appeal, and presents the Gospel with delightful simplicity and clarity. Each paragraph has a heading, the first being “I Pray Thee Have Me Excused”, referring to the parable in Luke 14. This is followed by a number of headings expressing the common ideas or excuses of folk, for example, “I Never Did Any Harm In My Life” and “I’ll Turn Over A New Leaf”. The response in each case is in plain terms, backed by suitable Scripture quotations, so that the reader is left without excuse. At the heart of the booklet there are paragraphs headed “A Living Saviour For You”; “The Ground Of Salvation”; and “How To Be Saved”. Assertions like “Far Too Easy A Way” and “I Am Too Great A Sinner” are addressed, and typical questions like “Must We Not Work Out Our Own Salvation?” are clearly answered. Mr Marshall recounts the experience of a Christian who said that it took him 42 years to learn three things: (1) that he could do nothing to save himself; (2) that God did not require him to do anything; and (3) that the Lord Jesus Christ did it all. The booklet is an altogether comprehensive presentation of the Gospel. Millions of copies have been distributed, and many anxious souls have been helped and blessed through reading it.


George Cutting and Alexander Marshall were effective evangelists, and both were greatly used by God in their day in the salvation of many souls. But, to both these men, God imparted also the gift of writing valuable pieces of literature that remain useful tools in evangelism. They have been such a great help to so many believers that they have come to form part of our “goodly heritage”, along with numerous other tracts and booklets, some less well known but perhaps with local significance. Tracting remains popular and effective in assembly and private outreach. Indeed, the ready availability of sound Gospel literature has proved a blessing in enabling every Christian, with the desire to do so, to share in the noble endeavour of evangelism. Perhaps many a time a tract has been placed into a person’s hand with nothing known of the result. Eternity will reveal it all in that day when “both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together” (Jn 4.36).

¹ J Brown, ‘A Goodly Heritage (40)’, Believer’s Magazine, May 2016.

² Alexander Marshall, Another Pioneer, May 1945.


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