Representative!—The minister is not a private individual, with the independence, freedom, and obscurity incident to such. He is instead a public official. This is properly so, for like an ambassador in a foreign land,—which he is in verity,—he speaks, writes, and acts always in a representative capacity. He assumes such a solemn and unique responsibility when he accepts ordination vows. He deliberately foregoes certain freedoms. Well were it for us to ponder these principles constantly.
Breadth!—The times demand men of broad sympathies, understanding, and vision. The hour calls for men who have a wide outlook, who see beyond the restricted limits of their own interests, territory, or line of work, to an all-embracing world field and task. Men are needed who, banishing narrowness and selfishness, understand and labor for the upbuilding of every branch and section of our world work; men who are growing, not stagnating; men who can differ on nonessentials or methods, and still respect and work with one another; men who can forgive an injury and still love as before the one who has wronged them. Such are the kind of men needed in this movement today.
Deceived!—What is more pathetic than the hallucination of an individual worker, or a group, believing, like Elijah, that "I, only I, am left" in true defense of the faith? The feeling,—expressed or concealed,—that virtually all others have departed from, compromised, or betrayed that faith, leads to a species of spirit. ual pride, arrogance, and intolerance that is ruinous both to the individual and to his service. God's rebuke to Elijah applies just here, and unless received will end in disaster. God, who reads the inmost secrets of the human heart, has reserved to Himself an army of loyal adherents who have "not bowed the knee to Baal." Let men beware of impugning the motives or challenging the integrity and loyalty of the larger body of associate workers who have given their lives in unstinted service to the cause both are seeking to upbuild.
Discussion!—The stifling of discussion is contrary to the very genius of both civil and religious democracy, for truth is a living, expanding principle. Repression of discussion is ever characteristic of autocracy, with its centralized power and its fear of disturbing the status quo. History marks it as notoriously the tool of tyranny and the instrument of error. Freedom to ask questions, to differ, to discuss, fosters truth and exposes error. Controversy occupied a large part in the formation of the New Testament canon. Debate sifts fallacy from fact and error from truth; but stagnating conservatism, with its accompanying frown upon discussion, tends toward ultimate uncertainty and disaster; and repression of investigation often ends in upheaval.
Safeguard!—"Systematic theology" may seem a rather pretentious term. It may, by some, be deemed something alien to the simplicity of the third angel's message. But, sweeping in as it does in full-rounded survey, the whole field of the fact of the Godhead, creation, moral law and government, sin and redemption with all its aspects in balanced relationship, rightly studied and understood, systematic theology constitutes a mighty bulwark against fanaticism or distorted emphasis upon a single truth or element of truth. Extremism is incompatible with such a sound, well-balanced view of truth. We have suffered through the decades of this movement because some failed to have this safeguarding balance.
Adequacy!—With a world structure crumbling about us, with Catholicism gaining power and prestige by leaps and bounds, and with Protestantism drifting farther and farther from the light and truth of its founders, are we adequately meeting the challenge of the hour? Multitudes are disillusioned by the failure of degenerate Romanism and emasculated Protestantism to meet the needs of the soul and to guide out of the bewildering religious and social maze onto a platform of safety. Many are groping for an adequate explanation of past and present and a forecast of the future, and above all for a satisfying presentation of the provisions of redemption in its consummating phase that will both strip away all the innovations of apostasy and restore the full primitive gospel. And that is just what we are to offer men today. These are the appealing fundamentals of the everlasting gospel that underlie all phases of reform and revival. These constitute in verity the essence of our message. Let us not erect barriers against its reception by tactless approaches and distorted emphasis of irrelevancies.
Turpitude!—Be not deceived by fair words. Strangely and sadly enough, some of the most revolting cases of moral turpitude have been among those professing a great burden concerning the higher spiritual life. Perhaps these aspirations and concerns were in themselves sincere, but were swept under before the onrush of overmastering passion. But profession or concern does not in itself constitute the criterion of truly spiritual life. Here preeminently actions speak louder and more convincingly than words.
L. E. F.