This is an age of lowered and lowering standards. The world in general is rapidly departing from God. Spiritual degeneracy is fast leavening the great Christian church. Men are losing out of their hearts the consciousness of sin. There is great danger that this prevailing spirit in the world around us will enter into our own ranks. Indeed, we must confess that some Seventh-day Adventists are affected by this situation. Spiritual apathy and indifference possess their lives. While they formally profess the truth, and still company with the Israel of God, their hearts are turning back to Egypt.
We as ministers are confronted with the danger of imbibing this spirit of indifference. If we do not practice sin in our own lives, we are tempted to temporize with it in the lives of others. We are tempted to soften our message, to preach smooth things, in order that we may not appear radical or extreme. This has been a temptation threatening God's representatives in every age.
" Like people, like priest." This scripture is often misquoted to read, " Like priest, like people." There is danger, of course, always, that the priest will be the leader in backsliding, but the greater danger is that he will lower his standard to meet the standard of the people. Declares the prophet: " My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to Me: seeing thou hest forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children." Hosea 4:6.
This was said of the priests of Israel of old. May God grant that it shall not apply to the priests in Israel to-day. And yet, if we fail to declare the whole counsel of God, if we fail to act as God's prophets, fearlessly upholding the dil/ine standard and calling the people up to that standard, this condemnation will be ours. The temptation confronting every minister is that instead of feeding the sheep meat in due season and leading them in plain, upward paths, he will condone sin and seek to become popular with his congregation, striving for the praise of men instead of the praise of God.
Dr. Denny of Glasgow, Scotland, used to admonish divinity students whom he addressed, to feed carefully the flock of God. But while they were to be careful to feed the flock, they were likewise to be careful not to become the pet of their congregation. Commenting on this, James Moffett, D. D., in the Record of Christian Work, says:
"There are some ministers who become the pet lamb of their congregation. They have a nice time. They are fondled and petted. Feed My sheep! ' We haye to be shepherds, and take the flock where we know they ought to go, not where they think they ought to go. From the highest motives some seek to avoid differing from the opinions of the congregation, and so fail to give them moral leadership and the awakening and stirring of their consciences."
The exhortation to the minister of Christ is: " Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables." 2 Tim. 4:2-4.
This testimony borne by the servant of the Master must be borne in the spirit of the Master. In meekness, in humility, in watchfulness, in prayer, in tears, with tender heart and kind words, but none the less bravely and uncompromisingly, should the minister of Christ declare the whole counsel of God. Only as he does this can he discharge his God-given responsibility, can he exalt his holy calling, can he stand as did the apostle Paul, free from the blood of all men, because he has not failed to declare the whole counsel of God.
The minister (of Christi is to be an example to the flock, " in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity." May God grant that our surrender to the divine will shall be so complete that the Spirit of the living God may work mightily through the testimony we bear, and thus we become able ministers of His grace.
Washington, D. C.