The Ministerial Institute held in the Auburn church, Victoria, in November, 1945, for the benefit of the workers of the Victorian and Tasmanian conferences, proved a great blessing to all. The institute was under the leadership of two well-known and proved evangelists: R. Allan Anderson, of the General Conference, who had spent years in successful evangelism in Australasia, Great Britain, and America; and J. B. Conley, whose work in India and Australia has produced much fruitage of souls. These brethren, in the prime of life, and rich in knowledge gained through experience and observation, gave us the best they possessed. Truly it was a feast of good things—"the finest of the wheat," and "wines on the lees well refined;" Never was there a moment, from the opening devotional exercises until the final exhortations, that we did not hear the voice of God calling us to a higher life, a more fruitful ministry, and a greater confidence in the message we have been commissioned to proclaim.
Three words dominated every sermon, study, and song—three words representing fundamental ideals and aspirations, and demanding the attention of God's workmen in this era of grace. These words were "message," "messenger," "methods." They are linked together in an inseparable union, and he who has confidence in the first, studies to be approved in the second, and follows the best in the third, can but attain to that position where God will say of him, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."
The message—what hallowed memories cluster round it, of earnest, thoughful, prayerful, studious men who formulated it, of godly, fearless, resourceful men who propagated it, and of holy, noble men and women who embraced it! This message, which rose on time, whose verities are backed by the Word of God, and whose arguments no opposition has overthrown, is not a new message but one which we received from Christ and the apostles. We know for certain that our interpretation of prophecy is not an innovation but a continuation of the work of the apostles. It is not a discovery of new truths, but a recovery of long-lost old truth. It is not the defense of new positions but the championing of old positions. We contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.
During five interesting periods of special study Pastor Anderson traced the stream of prophetic interpretation from the days of the apostles to our own time. What a heritage is ours ! All the truths taught by the early church leaders, by the Waldenses, by the great pre-Reformation leaders who dared expose the errors of Babylon, by the great Reformers of the sixteenth century, and then by the leaders of the advent movement of the nineteenth century—all this is ours and more. Is it any wonder that we can preach with confidence when we have so much backing ? Well may we thank God, and courageously face friend or foe.
Seeing that the message requires a messenger, due consideration was given to the importance of training better men to proclaim the good tidings of great joy. "Better men !" How often we heard the expression, and what ideals and standards were set before us. Jesus was ever uplifted—the purity and holiness of His life, His love for men, His patience in winning them, His zeal and enthusiasm in labor. When we came to know that He had charged us to preach His gospel and had promised us power, we were inspired to go forward with joy.
One most helpful study centered in God's ideal foursquare man—the man whose physical powers are preserved in the best possible condition, whose mind is clear and alert, whose spirituality breathes of heaven; and whose sociability makes him a friend to old and young. Such men are in great demand, and such a soul-winning personality is the possibility of all.
With the ideal of being men of God—men who possess the love of Moses, the zeal and vision of Paul, the faith of Elijah, and the loyalty of Daniel —we were constantly reminded that these qualities were more indispensable than methods, and yet much time was given to the discussion of better methods to meet the demands of the times. Wonderful counsel was given us on securing results. The call was for better methods, adapted to local conditions, but ever with a glorious harvest of souls as the ultimate goal. There must be harmony among the workers, every man in an evangelistic team a specialist, and yet willing to forgo his own personal desires if thereby greater results may be achieved.
The need of stronger and more permanent teams to work the large cities of this continent was stressed. Constantly we were urged to use only the best in meeting places, music, advertising, etc. The workers spent their spare time between meetings carefully studying the technique of advertising as used by their fellow workers in other lands.
The institute was most inspiring and somewhat different from any others held in this field. We return to our labors determined to share with our brethren in all the world the joy soon to be ours when Jesus comes to claim His own. The task before us is staggering, but we have a mighty Helper, who bids us go forward. With joy and confidence we obey, assured of final success. The memories of the institute find expression in the following lines:
Up in the mountain with Jesus,
Daily we pondered His Word,
Daily we heard His instruction,
Daily our hearts were all stirred.
Firmer grew our convictions
Faith in our message to place,
Stronger to make proclamation,
When friend or when foe we face
Heirs to a past full of glory,
Keepers of gems lost from view
Placed in a casket of beauty,
Riches abundant and true.
Great is the task that awaits us
Ere sinks the sun in the west,
Bitter the conflict with evil,
Calling for courage and zest.
Down in the valley with Jesus,
Mingling with sorrow and sin,
Urged by a love that is boundless,
Seeking the sinner to win.
Soon will the struggle be over;
Soon will the labor be done;
Soon will the trials be ended;
Soon will the laurels be won:
Loyal to God and our calling,
Filled with the love of our Lord,
Forth to our tasks we would hasten,
Preaching the truths of His Word.