Among "the words of the Preacher, the son of David," are these: " Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savor: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honor." Eccl. 10:1. While "reputation for wisdom and honor " is an enviable acquirement, it is nevertheless accompanied by grave responsibility, and Solomon, the wisest of all preachers, set forth this proverb as a precaution to all preachers of the word of God to the close of time.
" A little folly." How significant the statement! The reputation for wisdom and honor, based upon the sacred and divine calling, and built up by years of diligent study, earnest prayer, and exemplary conduct, may suddenly become obnoxious because " a little folly " is allowed to drop into the spiritual ointment of the divine apothecary.
The preacher's life may become tinctured by folly in various ways, but one of the most susceptible channels is witticism and foolishness in words. How often the influence of a good sermon is ruined and made odious by a joke, an amusing story, or a crude illustration! There is apparent need of ,giving more careful heed to the clear warning given us in these later times, by the spirit of prophecy, against intermingling the comical with the sacred, the foolish with the sublime. The following are a few of the statements which, in no uncertain language, condemn the practice:
" Neither is it the object of preaching to amuse. . . . Ministers should not bring amusing stories into their preaching. The people need pure provender, thoroughly winnowed from the chaff. . . . The minister who mixes story-telling with his discourses is using strange fire. God is offended, and the cause of truth is dishonored, when His representatives descend to the use of cheap, trifling words."" Testimonies to Ministers," p. 318.
"What can the minister do without Jesus? — Verily, nothing. Then if he is a frivolous, joking man, he is not prepared to perform the duty laid upon him by the Lord. . . The flippant words that fall from his lips, the trifling anecdotes, the words spoken to create a laugh, are all condemned by the word of God, and are entirely out of place in. the sacred desk. • . . What is ;the object of the ministry? Is it to mix the comical with the religious? The theater is the place for such exhibitions."—Id., pp. 142, 143.
" A jovial minister in the pulpit, or one who is stretching beyond his measure to win praise, is a spectacle that crucifies the Son of God afresh, and puts Him to open shame."— Id., pp. 146, 147
" Young men are rising to engage in the work of God, some of whom have scarcely any sense of the sacredness and responsibility of the work. . . . They run in a jovial mood as naturally as water iflows downhill. They talk nonsense, and sport with young girls, while almost daily listening to the most solemn, soul-stirring truths. These men have a religion of the head, but their hearts are not sanctified by the truths they hear. Such can never, lead others to the Fountain of living waters until they have drunk of they stream themselves. It is no time now for lightness, vanity, or trifling."-- " Gospel Workers," pp. 130, 131.
" When a minister bearing the soleinn message of warning to the world . . is careless in his example and deportment, engaging with the young in trifling conversation, in jesting and joking, and in relating humorous anecdotes to create laughter, he is unworthy of being a gospel minister, and needs to be converted before he is intrusted with the care of the sheep and lambs."— Id., pp. 131, 132.
" The minister of Christ should be a man of prayer, a man of piety; cheerful, but never coarse and rough, jesting or frivolous. A spirit of frivolity may be in keeping with the profession of clowns and theatrical performers, but it is altogether beneath the dignity of a man who is chosen to stand between the living and the dead, and to be a mouthpiece for God."--Id., p. 132.
The relating of pathetic stories, and using illustrations tending to arouse human emotions and produce tears, are also condemned, as will be seen by referring to " Testimonies to Ministers," page 336, and " Gospel Workers," page 382. The " few tears," and the " feelings stirred " by " swaying minds through human influence," result in only " driftwood," which may block the stream, or float on with the current and be lost in the rapids.
Preachers of the solemn message of heaven to a doomed world in this last hour of human history, must not stoop to methods which call for anecdotes to amuse or pathetic stories to arouse. Such preachers are called to " weep between the porch and the altar." They must be " sober, and watch unto prayer." The modern world does not need to be jollied up, but sobered down. Our work is not to entertain and amuse, but to bring conviction of sin, which leads to weeping and repentance. Let all be on guard lest " a little folly " counteract the " reputation for wisdom and honor " which rightly belongs to the preachers of righteousness, and thus bring dishonor upon the Son of God, " who bath saved us, and called us with a holy calling."
Loma Linda, Calif.