Before my departure for Australia, nearly two years ago, there chanced to come into my hands a book entitled, " The Minister and His Own Soul," written by Thomas Hamilton Lewis, President Emeritus of Western Maryland College. In the pressure of making preparation for my journey, I failed to take this book with me. But the title burned its way into my heart, and it kept burning there until, when I returned to the office a short time ago, I made it one of my first items to look for the book and read it carefully. After doing so I felt convinced that this would be a most excellent volume to include in the Ministerial Reading Course for 1930. But by the time I had reached this decision the selections for the Reading Course had already been made, and it was too late to include this volume. It was, however, decided to place this book in the suggestive list of " elective " volumes, announced in connection with the Reading Course, and thereby bring it to the special attention of ministers, which, it is hoped, will result in the book's being secured and read by many. It was also agreed that I furnish, through The Ministry, a few brief studies dealing with the theme of " The Minister and His Own Soul," and in these studies I shall deem it appropriate to draw freely from the suggestions set forth in this volume.
Personally I wish to tell my fellow workers in the ministry that the reading of the messages given in this book to ministers of the cross by a deeply spiritual man, at the close of his long service in the gospel ministry, has been a distinct blessing to me. The lofty ideals set forth — so Scriptural, so sound, so practical — lift the calling of the gospel minister to a very high plane indeed. In his introduction to the book, Bishop McDowell makes the following statements:
"The thing that has held me, as I have had the privilege of reading the manuscript, has been the spirit living and glowing on all the pages and in each of these chapters. This ' good minister of Jesus Christ' has manifestly kept his soul on top through the half century in which he has been a minister. The spiritual glow has not gone either from his life or his calling. All this combines to make this one of those creative volumes which go with sure power to the making of better ministers of those who follow its counsels and catch its spirit."
True to its title, the book places commanding emphasis upon the importance of the minister's giving heed to his own soul, and is a striking re-enforcement of Paul's counsel to the young preacher Timothy, when he said, " Exercise thyself unto godliness." 1 Tim. 4: 7. At the very beginning, the author lays down this important principle: " Sometimes good service to the public is not possible without good service to one's self first of all. The minister is an outstanding example of this. He serves the public more by example than by precept." The meaning of this statement is explained in the following sentence: " Many a good sermon is wasted, not because it goes over people's heads, but because it is trampled on daily by the preacher's walk and conversation." In this, Dr. Lewis sets forth a solemn, humbling confession, which ought to lead every minister in this great movement to most serious thought. In our efforts in behalf of souls who are drifting away from Christ, how often are we confronted by the reference to glaring inconsistencies seen in the daily walk and conversation of ministers! The people see and hear things which they cannot harmonize with the high calling of the ministry, and this leads to lack of confidence, then to doubts, and finally to departure. Brethren, let us take this to heart, and pray fervently, and watch unto prayer, that nothing in our lives shall become a stone of stumbling to those with whom we associate.
Still further awakening statements found in the opening pages of the book, to which I desire to call special attention, are these: " The primary concern, therefore, of ministers is personal goodness." " If their own soul is not right, they will be wholly wrong as individuals, and as ministers blind leaders of the blind." " The capacity for and the source of all the power we can legitimately employ as ministers, must come . . . from the precious deposit in our own souls of personal goodness." " No amount of work done for others will make us good, and also, neglect of our own goodness makes us impotent to help others."
By insistence on the positive need of " personal goodness " the author does not have in mind the cultivation of the amiable, pleasing qualities of personality one may possess by inheritance. He directs us to something higher and mightier than that:
"The preacher of the cross is not limited to the resources of his own natural qualities, even when these are refined and heightened by divine grace. He is to be reenforced by direct communication of spiritual power from on high, to be made the instrument of supernatural activities. In this process his own spirit is to be made holy, his love purged of all hypocrisy, his word to be informed with absolute truth, and his power to be merged into the power of God."
It is in such language that this author presents what he conceives to be the first and most essential qualification for efficiency in the preaching of the gospel. How deeply grateful men of ordinary talents and limited advantages should be that this kind of preparation for effectual service in soul winning is the most essential, for we may all go to the limit in this kind of preparation.
The sound, reliable, vital principle enunciated by the author of " The Minister and His Own Soul " is thoroughly and beautifully re-enforced by the following statement from the Spirit of prophecy:
" Those who teach the word must themselves live in hourly contact, in conscious, living communion with God. The principles of truth and righteousness and mercy must be within them. They must draw from the fountain of all wisdom moral and intellectual power. Their hearts must be alive with the deep movings of the Spirit of God." " The gospel that we present to save perishing souls must be the very gospel that saves our souls."—"Testimonies," Vol. VI, pp. 48, 52.
And all that is set forth in this study regarding the minister and his own soul is based on the life and example of Jesus Himself. He " loved righteousness, and hated iniquity," and in behalf of His ministers and their work He said, " For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified."
In this age of frenzied activity, there must come to the minister a deep conviction regarding the vital importance of dealing with his own soul, coupled with a firm determination to take the necessary time for this primary and vital essential.
A. G. Daniells.