Wit!—Who can picture the Man of sorrows as a wit in the desk, resorting in His discourses to the tricks of the secular orator, punctuating His remarks with puns, and swaying His audience alternately to laughter and to tears?
Brevity!—When will speakers learn that, especially in institutional services, sermons must be reasonably brief, if effective? There the routine is regulated by the clock. Restlessness, loss of attention, and subsequent absence result from prolonged services. And the same principle applies, more or less, to all presentations in this tense, restless age. There is, moreover, a limit to the amount the average mind will grasp and retain. Wise preachers work for the largest and most abiding results.
Integrity!—Purity of life is foundational for every worker. An unsullied character is his, or her, priceless asset—a name above suspicion in the realm of morals, honesty, or veracity. Devoid of this, one is not only a hypocrite and a deceiver, working against insuperable odds and hampering influences that make ultimate failure inevitable, but is also under a handicap of secret condemnation that takes the very heart out of one's work. Pure hearts, clean minds, and unimpeachable conduct are imperative for us as workers.
Ignore!—Nothing so discomfits a critic as to ignore him. He thrives on attention, but perishes from neglect; hence his craving for the spotlight so essential to his very existence. This essential truth furnishes the clue to successful handling of denominational critics. If we can be diverted from our designated task to answering captious charges and countercharges, we are deflected from our appointed mission to that degree, and the enemy's cause is advanced just that much. Some things are not worthy of notice. The mastiff does not often deign to notice the terrier barking at his heels.
Reserve! —The church is shocked, saddened, and shamed occasionally by the moral lapse of one of her ministers. But in virtually every case, the fall did not come suddenly; it developed gradually. There was a background of yielding to unlawful, tempting thoughts, and little encroachments onto forbidden ground, antedating any act of misconduct. True ministerial courtesy and Christian solicitude involve an active and earnest interest in every member of the flock, young and old, man, woman, and child. But that interest should be marked by proper reserve and unimpeachable conduct. Never should friendliness border on familiarity. The line of demarcation between proper interest and improper intimacy is sharp and clear and fundamental. This should be recognized by every minister for his own sake, for the sake of the church, and for the protection of the flock.
Hardness!—Soldiers are expected to endure hardship. It is part of their lot. Privations, dangers, discomforts, are theirs when war is on. And we as soldiers of the cross will come to sense the parallel under the increasingly perilous times of these last days. Our assured monetary support may become more precarious. The comforts-and softnesses of modern life and standards may be denied us more and more. The primitive conditions of apostolic days, and of pioneer missionaries through the past, may prevail increasingly from now on, and our dependence may be thrown more and more upon the direct providence of God and personal efforts for support. We should face these facts with the bravery that becomes soldiers of Christ. A world in upheaval, an upset in monetary standards, isolations in large sections of the world,—these should teach us preparedness for future contingencies. The soldier of Christ will rejoice in his hardships as did Paul, with this difference, that our redemption is at the door.
Expedients!—The distracting pressure of the times and the increasing difficulty in holding our youth, is driving some workers to a heavy dependence upon expedients and devices. But these only ameliorate the difficulty. They do not cure the disease, nor touch the cause. Some are quite earthy in their texture, and wholly secular in their flavor. We must of course apply consecrated common sense to the problem. Old heads cannot be put upon young shoulders. But let us as ministers guard faithfully against the subtle temptation of the hour to substitute social culture for spiritual regeneration, the friendly spirit for the divine Spirit, and accessories for objectives. These constitute helpful accompaniments, but are dangerous and sinister as substitutes.
Solicitude!—When charges against the character or conduct of an individual are made to us, we should in the church, as in the state, regard every one innocent until proved guilty. The command, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor," includes the repetition of tales and rumors that would injure the reputation and handicap the life of a fellow worker. Moreover, Christian principles require that when a person does err, both candor and faithfulness be exercised to restore him. He thus becomes the object of our solicitude and help, not of our suspicion, avoidance, or exclusion.
L. E. F.