Disciplining the Mind

Vital "Testimony" Counsels.

Ellen G. White

The true minister of Christ should make continual improvement. The afternoon sun of his life may be more mellow and productive of fruit than the morning sun. It may con­tinue to increase in size and brightness until it drops behind the western hills. My brethren in the ministry, it is better, far better, to die of hard work in some home or foreign mission field, than to rust out with inaction.

Be not dismayed at difficulties; be not con­tent to settle down without studying and with­out making improvement. Search the word of God diligently for subjects that will instruct the ignorant, and feed the flock of God. Be­come so full of the matter that you will be able to bring forth from the treasure house of His word, things new and old.

Your experience should not be ten, twenty, or thirty years old, but you should have a daily, living experience, that you may be able to give to each his portion of meat in due season. Look forward, not backward. Never be obliged to tug at your memory in order to relate some past experience. What does that amount to today to you or to others? While you treasure all that is good in your past experience, you want a brighter, fresher experience as you pass along.

Do not boast of what you have done in the past, but show what you can do now. Let your works and not your words praise you. Prove the promise of God that "those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring fruit in old age; and they shall be fat and flourish­ing; to show that the Lord is upright : He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him."

Keep your heart and mind young by con­tinuous exercise. If you have the quickening grace of Christ to energize your movements, you will put earnestness into your sermons. Your subject will be clear and well defined in your mind. You will not be lengthy in your remarks; neither will you speak hesitatingly, as though you did not yourself believe what you were saying. You must overcome slow hesitation, and undecided, sluggish movements, and learn to be minutemen.

The subjects which many of our ministers present before the people are not half as con­nected and as clear and strong in argument as they should be. They profess to be teachers of the Word, but they sadly neglect to search the Scriptures for themselves. They are con­tent to use the arguments which are prepared in pamphlets and books, and which others have labored earnestly to search out; but they are not willing to tax their minds to study them out for themselves.

In order to make full proof of their ministry, those who open the word of God to others should search the Scriptures diligently. They should not be content to use other men's thoughts, but should dig for truth as for hid treasures. While it is perfectly right to gather ideas from other minds, they should not be satisfied to take those ideas and repeat them in a poll-parrot manner. Make these ideas your own, brethren; frame the arguments your­selves, from your own study and research. Do not borrow the productions of other men's brains and pens, and recite them as a lesson; but make the most of the talents, the brain power, that God has given you.

Those who teach the Word should not shun mental discipline. Every worker, or company of workers, should by persevering effort es­tablish such rules and regulations as will lead to the formation of correct habits of thought and action. Such a training is necessary not only for the young men, but for the older workers, in order that their ministry may be free from mistakes, and their sermons be clear, accurate, and convincing.

Some minds are more like an old curiosity shop than anything else. Many odd bits and ends of truth have been picked up and stored away there; but they know not how to pre­sent them in a clear, connected manner. It is the relation that these ideas have to one an­other that gives them value. Every idea and statement should be as closely united as the links in a chain. When a minister throws out a mass of matter before the people for them to pick up and arrange in order, his labors are lost; for there are few who will do it.

Many of our young men might today be in­tellectual giants, had they not been content to reach a low level. Those who do not love to study, are ever in great danger of becoming dwarfs in spiritual and mental growth. They consider that they have a moderate understanding of Scripture subjects, and they cease to investigate, cease to plow deep that they may obtain all the treasures of knowledge possible. Instead of cultivating studious habits, they yield to inclination, and are content to skim the surface, without going with energy to the bottom of the question under consideration.

Those who have this superficial manner of study would not be prepared to meet an op­ponent in discussion should one oppose them. They penetrate only deep enough into a sub­ject to meet the present emergency, and to conceal the real ignorance of their lazy minds. Gradually this course causes hesitancy, dwarfs the comprehension, and bars the way to suc­cessful effort.

Some of our ministers have a runway of discourses which they use year after year, with little variation. The illustrations are the same, and the words are almost the same. Such per­sons have ceased to improve, ceased to be stu­dents. They think to prevent mental decrepi­tude by not taxing the mind with too much study. Mistaken idea! It is only by being taxed that the mind gains vigor and acuteness. It must work, or it will lose its strength; it must have fresh subjects to feed upon, or it will starve. Unless it is made to think regu­larly and systematically, it will surely lose its power to think.

Bible---the Source of Intellectual Culture

The perusal of works upon our faith, the reading of arguments from the pens of others, while an excellent and important practice, is not that which will give the mind the greatest strength. The Bible is the best book in the world for intellectual culture. The grand themes presented in it, the dignified simplicity with which these themes are handled, the light which it sheds upon the mysteries of heaven, bring strength and vigor to the understanding. The mind must be made to penetrate beneath the surface. This is compared to digging for the truth as for hid treasures.

There are those in the ministry who have been readers of the Bible all their lives, and who think themselves so well versed in its teachings that they do not need to study it. Here is where they mistake. To the diligent Bible student new light, new ideas, new gems of truth, will constantly appear, and be eagerly grasped. Even through eternal ages the truths of this wonderful book will continue to unfold.

Our ministers are too well satisfied with themselves. They need intellectual discipline. They seem to feel that their education is finished. But this is not the case; indeed, it will never be completed. Education is the work of a lifetime; and when this life ends, the same work will be carried forward in the future life. As they advance in years, many become worthless as preachers, and cease their labors, at the very time when their experience would be of most advantage to the cause, and when they can be illy spared. Had these dis­ciplined their brains to work, they would have been fruitful in old age.

The gospel is not properly represented by those who have ceased to be students, who have, as it were, graduated in Bible study. If men would reach the ears of the people in these days when pleasing fables are presented by eloquent lips, their minds must be disciplined and richly furnished with the imperishable truths of God's word.

To you who have ceased to be Bible students, and who have become intellectually lazy, I would say, Begin now to redeem the time. You may not be able to do this entirely, but you can to a certain degree accomplish it. Be­gin at once to harness up the mind for effort. Say in the strength of Jesus, I will study for eternity ; I will overcome my sluggish tempera­ment. And then engage with greater earnest­ness than ever before in the work of God and in the study of His word.—Mrs. E. G. White, in Review and Herald, April 6, 1886.

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Ellen G. White

April 1939

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