Genuine piety is the first indispensable requisite for receiving the call to become a minister for God, an ambassador for Christ. Any man who has not felt the call to holiness for himself has certainly not been called to the ministry. A teacher of homiletics once admonished his pupils thus:
"Let each man here whisper to his own inmost soul, 'What a dreadful thing it will be for me, if I should be ignorant of the power of the truth which I am preparing to proclaim!' An unconverted ministry involves the most unnatural relationships. A graceless pastor is a blind man elected to a professorship of optics, philosophizing upon light and vision, discoursing upon and distinguishing to others the nice shades and delicate blendings of the prismatic colors, while he himself is absolutely in the dark. He is a dumb man elevated to the chair of music; a deaf man fluent upon symphonies and harmonies!"
The apostle Paul writes, "Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine." It is of first importance to take heed to ourselves, to see that we are all that we try to persuade others to be, and that we believe that which we would persuade others to believe. If Uzzah must die for touching the ark of God at the moment when it seemed that the ark would fall to the ground; if the men of Beth-shemesh must perish for looking into the ark; if the very beasts that came near the holy mount must be put to death, what manner of persons ought those to be who are "named the priests of the Lord," and called "the ministers of our God," who stand between God and the people as ambassadors for Christ? We read that "'holiness becometh Thy house, 0 Lord;' and were it not a ridiculous thing to imagine that the vessels must be holy, the vestures must be holy, all must be holy, but only he upon whose very garments must be written 'Holiness to the Lord' might be unholy?"
The ministry is unlike other professions. Men may teach art or science without reference to moral character. The printer may be an excellent mechanic, and may be able to teach his craft thoroughly, and yet be a very ungodly man. A college professor may be grossly immoral, and yet a very learned and able instructor. But the minister is blended with the truth he teaches. No men are assailed with greater temptations than those in the ministry, and every minister must take heed to himself, to see that his personal character agrees in all respects with the high and holy standard of the ministry. Then, and only then, can he with effectiveness give heed to the doctrines.
To be an efficient and successful soul winner, the minister must be diligent in study. How voluminous the instruction given to us through the Spirit of prophecy regarding the necessity of study.
"We talk about the first angel's message and the second angel's message, and we think we have some understanding, of the third angel's message. But as long as we are content with a limited knowledge, we shall be disqualified to obtain clearer views of truth."—"Gospel Workers," p. 251.
"Thousands of men who minister in the pulpit are lacking in the essential qualities of mind and character because they do not apply themselves to the study of the Scriptures. They are content with a superficial knowledge of the truths of God's word, and they prefer to go on losing much in every way rather than to search diligently for the hidden treasure."—Id., pp. 249, 250.
A wealth of material has been placed in our hands,—the Holy Bible with its history and prophecy, poetry and narrative; the "Testimonies" for the remnant church through the Spirit of prophecy, and other wonderful books from the same source, all of which should be studied in connection with the Bible; and our denominational books, written by men who have given deep thought to the message for these times. In addition to all these, we have our denominational papers. Surely we should-heed-tlid-affrffoliffian of Paill to Timothy, by giving "attendance to reading," and thereby enrich the mind for greater capacity in the spiritual realm.
Combined with diligent mental preparation, there must be constant preparation of heart through prayer and meditation. Spurgeon, the great preacher, said: "While the unformed minister is revolving upon the wheel of preparation, prayer is the tool of the great Potter by which He molds the vessel. All our libraries and studies are mere emptiness compared with our closets. We grow, we wax mighty, we prevail, in private prayer."
As the Holy Spirit came to the apostles when they continued steadfastly in prayer; so this much-needed power will come again through the channel of prayer. Moody said it was more important to learn to pray like Daniel than to learn to preach like Gabriel. Another Christian leader aptly says: "Let your fleece lie on the threshing floor of supplication till it is wet with the dew of heaven. Go not to minister in the temple until you have washed in the laver. Think not to be a messenger of grace to others till you have seen the God of grace for yourself, and had the word from His mouth."
It is all too true that "many a Christian worker's activity is the grave of his spiritual life." In these strenuous days of hurry and speed, there is danger of forgetting the place of prayer. Under the pressure of our legitimate and necessary goals and campaigns, we need to watch lest we make the mistake of thinking that piety lies in action rather than in worship. If we would pray more, our activities would be surcharged with divine life, and all our service would be a joy and never a burden.