Limitations!—He who introduces fancies and speculations into sacred discourse from the desk,—to the disgust of the informed, the bewilderment of the untutored, and the stumbling of the captious and critical,—will have to give an account thereof before God. We, as ministers, are not called to discuss unprofitable or moot questions. We are not commissioned to exploit the fruitage of a fertile imagination. We are not issued credentials as authorization for public speculation upon the unknown and unknowable. Some things are for our own personal study and private conclusions. This we should never forget. Every thinking man cogitates upon the problematical. But upon such matters he should keep his own counsel. What God has not clearly revealed, is not essential to salvation; and what has no bearing upon salvation, has no rightful place in sermonic discourse. These are basic principles.
Critics!—The role of critic is a comparatively easy one to assume. The voluble "soapbox orator" on the street corner usually presumes to know more of the science of government than the men of great gifts and learning who have spent a lifetime in its study, and who, because of conspicuous leadership, have been called to head the nation's affairs. We usually relegate such to their proper place, smile, and pass on. And so should we do with agitators against the church. Be not disturbed by them. They are inescapable nuisances, we admit. But often they are to be pitied rather than condemned. Some embittering episode in the life, some overweening egotism, some irrepressible itch for the spotlight that their fellows do not spontaneously turn upon them,—these are among the elements that produce critics and agitators. Let us go on with our tasks.
Deterrents! —In these tense clays, when nationalistic and racial feelings run high, and political passions and prejudices tend to sweep aside normal judgment, we as workers need constantly to remember that we are but pilgrims here on earth. Our citizenship is in heaven, whence we look for Christ the Lord. We should not, therefore, become embroiled in political issues,—local, national, or international. We are to be a people apart. We have a message for all, and should never create nor aid in creating barriers against successfully reaching all. Prejudice on the part of the gospel messenger chills his ardor for reaching those of opposite political persuasion or racial consciousness. Let us not countenance these deterrents in our lives.
Impropriety!—It is contrary to all reason and propriety for a minister receiving credentials from this denomination, and support from its tithe, to set up private, personal standards as tests of church fellowship or as requirements for baptismal admission to the church, when the church body these converts are entering has taken no final position thereon, and has never made such items a test of admission or retention in fellowship. It is obviously inconsistent to consider as tests minor matters upon which there has been liberty of view throughout our history. And it is doubly odious to make a test out of that which the Spirit of prophecy specifically states is not a test.
Leadership!—True and wise leaders carry their associates along with them, instead of driving them under the task before them. They labor for intelligent cooperation, instead of blind assent. They seek to surround themselves with real men, instead of "yes" men, echoes, or fawning sycophants. They draw upon the best plans and suggestions conceived by others, instead of repulsing every proposal not originating with themselves. In other words, they lead instead of drive. They do not dominate. They permit and expect men to differ with them, and meantime respect them the more for having definite convictions. They neither believe in nor practice the policy of rule or ruin, believing that all popery is papal in spirit and in polity, having no rightful place in the remnant church, which is to be its complete antithesis.
Wastage! —The continual wastage of man power in the advent movement constitutes one of our appalling denominational losses. The broken health of leaders and foreign missionaries is the costliest and most serious wastage we have. This is especially true of premature and preventable returns from the mission field just at the time of greatest usefulness, and involving large denominational investment in the individuals concerned. Material things,—buildings, facilities, physical equipment,—while requiring money, can nevertheless be replaced with other things as good or better. But human experience, gained in leadership or through a term in foreign service, cannot be replaced save through a period of years required to bring another to similar proficiency. And often such can never be replaced, for God endows certain men with gifts that others neither possess nor acquire. Let us not press our valuable men to the point of breaking; and those who work without moderation, let us restrain for the general good.
L. E. F.