The first and fundamentally most important mission field in which the minister is called to labor is his own household. How inconsistent it would seem for a minister to neglect his home garden, allowing briers and thorns to flourish unhindered, while he manifests great zeal and interest in the cultivation of his neighbor's plot of ground. And yet it is one of the designs of the enemy to bring about just such tragedies. What if the minister is strong in logic, perfect in rhetoric, keen in argument, active in public service, but in his home life there is a sad lack of a godly life and example, and failure to establish his household in the ways of righteousness? Only the judgment day will reveal the tragic results of such a far too common situation.
Two characters are brought to view in the Bible to serve as warning and admonition to ministers in their relation to the responsibilities of parentage and home life. Of the patriarch Abraham, God said, "I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment." Gen. 18:19. The statements of inspired commentary on this scripture are as follows: "God .. . saw that Abraham would instruct his children and his household in the principles of God's law. . . His great household consisted of more than a thousand souls, . . . yet his authority was exercised with such wisdom and tenderness that hearts were won."—"Education," p. 187. "Abraham was honored of God because he cultivated home religion, and 'caused the fear of the Lord to pervade his whole household."—"Testimonies," Vol. V, P. 547
Eli, a priest and judge in Israel who held the highest and most re sponsible positions among the people of God, followed a different course in his family from that of Abraham. We read that "Eli was an indulgent father. . . . Instead of regarding the education of his sons as one of the most important of his responsibilities, he treated the matter as of little consequence, . . . and neglected the work of fitting them for the service of God and the duties of life."—"Patriarchs and Prophets," p. 575. In dealing with his sons, Eli "had not corrected their want of reverence for his authority, had not checked their disrespect for the solemn „services of the sanctuary; and when they reached manhood, they were full of the deadly fruits of skepticism and rebellion."—M., p. 576. He "did not manage his household according to God's rules for family government. He followed his own judgment."—Id., p. 578.
The sad ending of the career of Eli and his sons is too well known to call for repetition here. But it is worth while to note the following words of admonition: "Many are now making a similar mistake. . . . There is no greater curse upon households than to allow the youth to have their own way. . . . The influence of an ill-regulated family is widespread, and disastrous to all society. It accumulates in a tide of evil that affects families, communities, and governments."—Id., pp. 578, 579.
God designs that the home and the family of the minister shall be an exemplification of the sacred truths he teaches. The spiritual welfare of his family should have first consideration in the minister's life, work, and plans; and no work ever undertaken by man requires greater care and skill than the maintaining of a Christian home. The minister-father stands in his home as the priest of God, to teach the members of his household, by both precept and example, to love and fear God, to be intelligent, kind, affectionate, sociable, honest, respectful, obedient, faithful, self-denying, industrious, economical, and true. The minister-father is not authorized to fret, scold, dominate, rule, or ridicule, but he is to exemplify and guide with a firm and gentle hand. Parents "should never taunt their children with perverse traits of character, which they themselves have transmitted to them. This mode of discipline will never cure the evil." "The ill-balanced mind, the hasty temper, the fretfulness, envy, or jealousy, bear witness to parental neglect."—"Fundamentals of Christian Education," p. 67. How can we teach our children to subdue a hasty temper, to withhold the passionate word, to manifest unvarying kindness, Christian courtesy, and self-control, unless we set them the daily example? Actions speak louder than the most positive profession of godliness, and exert an influence hard to resist.
When Seventh-day Adventist ministers, with understanding hearts and unquestioned faith in God's word, carefully follow the instruction given, it will be their happy privilege to know by personal experience the surety of that promise, "I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children." Isa. 49:25. 0 that God might be permitted to fulfill this promise to each minister and his family before probation closes; for who can measure the eternal joy that will come to all such when the personal question is asked, "Where is the flock that was given thee, thy beautiful flock?" if they are able to answer, "Behold . . . the children which God hath given me." Jer. 13:20; Heb. 2:13.
Takoma Park, D. C.