Voice defects may be overcome, voice modulations thoroughly mastered, and voice interpretation skillfully rendered, and yet if there is lacking preparation of heart and mastery of self, there exists only a messenger without a message,—an Ahimaaz instead of a Cushi. The art of running is less important than the art of becoming. It is useless to run with the message unless one has become the message he bears.
The sermon is not the only part of a religious service which conveys a message. The singing and the Scripture reading, the prayer and the benediction, all have a phase of the message of the hour to impart. If this is not the case, then why give time for them? Each part of the service should be carefully planned for, in order that it may blend with and contribute to the success of the whole.
The Selection and Reading of Hymns.—The hymns selected should be in keeping with the main thought of the sermon, adding emphasis to the message rather than diverting the mind from it. To this end, the minister should make the choice of hymns a part of his sermon preparation. In the reading of hymns, good expression is as necessary as in the delivery of the sermon. The reading of the Psalms—the hymn book of the ancient Hebrews — affords opportunity for voice practice in hymn reading. It would be far better to omit the reading of hymns unless it can be done in such a way as to contribute to the spirit of worship. The singing of the hymns is equally important, and upon the chorister rests the responsibility of conducting the necessary choir practice and of leading the congregation to join in singing "with the spirit" and "with the understanding."
The Scripture Reading.—The reading of the Scripture is the using of the human voice to speak the words of God to the people, and hence should be regarded as a very sacred and solemn act. The reader must himself receive the message from God before he can give it to the people. If his own heart has not been touched by the divine message, the hearts of the hearers will not be moved by the reading. The Scripture selected should first be read in silence, listening only to the " still small Voice." When that Voice has spoken to the soul, then the Scripture may be read aloud as the message from God. Suggestions regarding the necessary preparation for public reading of the Bible are made by Dr. S. S. Curry, as follows:
"The reader must have not only knowledge and understanding of the passage, but a personal apprehension of its truth. He must searchingly examine himself. ' Do I live this message? Has it been food to me? Am I living this truth?' . . . He must know the value of a pause, a touch, a change of pitch, an inflection or any modulation of the voice, and be able to use it as the direct language of his imaginative and emotional life. No mere knowledge of the meaning and function of these modulations is sufficient. They must be mastered and assimilated; they must become the instinctive expression of deep feeling. However deeply the reader may understand and feel the Bible, he must also command the expressive powers of his voice before he can adequately impress the truth upon the hearts of others. . . . The reader must not try to make his readings graceful, ornamental, or beautiful. He is discharging an office too serious for that. His renderings must be true. He is not entertaining or amusing; he is endeavoring to save men. Not his to make an exhibition of his elocution, but to deal with living souls, to probe the depths of men's consciences and spiritual natures."
The Prayer.—While Scripture reading may be considered as God speaking to man through the human voice, in prayer man is speaking to God. As the noblest aspiration of the soul, prayer calls for the most spiritual modulations of the voice, and the deepest unity of all the elements of naturalness. The best and only proper voice training for public prayer is found in the reading aloud of prayer-hymns and the prayers preserved for our study in the Scriptures.
The Sermon.—Faulty delivery of a sermon is generally traceable to some departure from the elemental modulations of the conversational manner• of speaking. In speaking to a congregation, the minister's conversational voice is expanded and its range extended. In extending the elements of the conversational form, it is often the case that the weaker factors are enlarged, such as loudness, and by failing to give attention to change of pitch, pause, and inflection, an unnatural voice is developed. None of the elements of the conversational voice should be lacking, but the higher modulations, such as touch, tone, color, and movement, should be still more accentuated, together with straightness of inflection. But the conversational manner must always be the basis. The remedy for defects lies in giving the thought as directly as possible to one person and noting the natural modulations of everyday speech.
In order to become "able ministers" of the gospel, it is necessary to possess a spirit both of consecration and of application. The apostle Paul impressed this truth upon the young minister Timothy in the following words: "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." 2 Tim. 2:15. Through the instruction of the Spirit of prophecy this same truth is brought forcibly to the ministry of today. A few statements found in "Testimonies," Volume IV, are clear and explicit:
"All who labor in the great cause of reform should study to become efficient workmen, that they may accomplish the greatest possible amount of good, and not detract from the force of the truth by their own deficiencies Ministers and teachers should discipline themselves to clear and distinct articulation, giving the full sound to every word. Those who talk rapidly, from the throat, jumbling the words together and raising their voices to an unnaturally high pitch, soon become hoarse, and the words spoken lose half the force which they would have if spoken slowly, distinctly, and not so loud. .
"The Saviour of the world would have His colaborers represent Him; and the more closely a man walks with God, the more faultless will be his manner of address, his deportment, his attitude, and his gestures. . . .
"Some reason that the Lord will by His Spirit qualify a man to speak as He would have him; but the Lord does not propose to do the work which He has given man to do. He has given us reasoning powers, and opportunities to educate the mind and manners. And after we have done all we can for ourselves, making the best use of the advantages within our reach, then we may look to God with earnest prayer to do by His Spirit that which we cannot do for ourselves, and we shall ever find in our Saviour power and efficiency."—Pages 404, 405.
Takoma Park, D. C.