"Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God; even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints; through whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory; whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus."
The qualifications of ministers should be just what Paul represents them to be, and were they thus qualified, we should see efficiency and fullness of labor, and every man presented perfect in Christ Jesus. "Whereunto I also labor, striving according to His working, which worketh in me mightily."
The minister should be free from every unnecessary temporal perplexity, in order that he may give himself up to that culture that is essential for him who is handling sacred things. The minister's dress should be in accordance with the high character of the work he is doing. He should be much in prayer, and bring himself under discipline to God, that he may be self-controlled, inquiring at every step, Is this the way of the Lord? His language should be correct, and no slang phrase nor cheap, low talk, should be heard from his lips.
Let ministers and teachers reach the standard that is set forth in the Scriptures. Let them not neglect that which is looked upon as of little moment. Neglect of little things leads to neglect in larger responsibilities. He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful in that which is much. The actual discipline of life is made up of a training in little things. We are to train the thoughts, bind them about, and gird up the loins of the mind. The sanctification of soul, spirit, and body is the work of a lifetime. We are constantly to behold the Pattern, and continually grow in grace and the knowledge of the truth.
Importance of Little Things
Even in the least responsibility, in conversation concerning plans in business counsels, we should preserve our Christian decorum. Be very nice and pure and elevated in everything that concerns eternal interests. There should be no soiled covers on a table or stand where the Bible is opened before the people. Let everything be neat and modest, and in keeping with the character of the work which we have to do.
When the ordinance of baptism is administered, the candidates for baptism should be provided with robes appropriate for the occasion. They should be well-shaped garments, and made of suitable material. The best of order should be preserved, and nothing clumsy or uncouth should be seen in this holy ordinance. The administrator should make this an occasion of solemn, sacred influence upon those who are looking on, that it should have an elevating effect upon those who witness it, and not be placed on a level with common things.
The manner in which ministers conduct themselves in the pulpit and out of it, and in ordinances connected with divine service, educates the people by its influence. In little acts the soul is trained and disciplined for eternity, and little things are of vast consequence in the uplifting and sanctification of the believer through the Spirit. The work of sanctification must go on, not by impulse, but by steady, healthful advances, progressing toward perfection. The members of our churches need educating, that they may manifest more reverence for the sacred service of God. This object should be kept before them in all countries.
Higher Training Called For
A broader, higher training should be given to our human powers, that we may do a better and more acceptable service for the Master. Ministers of God should make the most of their opportunities and advantages, that, as educators of the people, they may reach a high and holy standard. Let those who labor in word and doctrine strive to perfect themselves in the use of language. The voice is a great power, and yet many have not trained their voices in such a way that they may be used to their highest capacity.
Jesus is our example. His voice was musical, and was never raised in high, strained notes while He was speaking to the people. He did not speak so rapidly that His words were crowded one upon another in such a way that it made it difficult to understand Him. He distinctly enunciated every word, and those who heard His voice bore the testimony that "never man spake like this man."
Let no one for a moment think that he is prepared to graduate. We have much to learn in making our manners more acceptable, and in using our voices in highest usefulness. As light shines upon us, we should walk as children of light. He who occupies the position of an educator should set his mark high. The minister of the gospel should not devote all his attention to sermonizing; for he is to keep the church of God in order, and educate its members to conform to the divine model.
The truth, when received into the heart, purifies the soul, and the religion of Jesus never makes its receiver coarse and rough and uncourteous. Truth has an elevating influence, and acts as a refiner. It is a constant educator, and molds and fashions the character after the likeness of Christ, fitting the believer for the courts above. It is a grand principle that must be worked out in practical life.
Danger of Belittling the Mind
There is no danger of belittling the mind by giving due attention to the little things of life. It is of great importance to give attention to acts of politeness, to the manifestation of tender regard for the brethren. There should be no neglect of speaking soft, peaceable, and encouraging words in the family circle. The habits of the home life stamp an impression upon the character, and if they are after a Christlike order, they will lead those who possess them to speak words that will be like fragrance, and ascend as precious incense to the throne of God. Where this is not the case, the presence of the angels is not felt in the home. Love, kindness, gentleness, forbearance, and long-suffering are not found, and the character is not garrisoned with right habits.
He who accepts the position of being a mouthpiece for God should consider it highly essential that he present the truth with all the grace and intelligence that he can acquire through discipline of the mind, and in such a manner that the truth will lose nothing by his presentation. Let no one consider it a little thing to speak in a thick voice and a clumsy manner, or to pitch the voice in a high, unnatural key, and talk loud and long, and thus abuse the organs of speech given of God, and make himself unacceptable to the people.
"Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." Let every man have Christ abiding in him, "the hope of glory, whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus."—Ellen G. White, in Review and Herald, March 5, 1895.