Great leaders of men have invariably been men of great intellect. "The cultivated mind is the measure of the man."—Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 561. Those of us whose sphere of labor is relatively limited, including perhaps only a church or two, may be tempted to leave the intellectual acumen to those of wider responsibility. But if we are to be held accountable for all that we might have done but failed to do, we may well ponder the possibility that intellectual laziness is keeping us from the heavier responsibility that might make us of greater use to our Master.
"To the man that pleaseth Him God giveth wisdom, and knowledge, and joy." Eed. 2:26, A.E.V.
Thinking is dangerous. "In much wisdom is much grief," and "much study is a weariness of the flesh." Yet the call is clear for every preacher to live dangerously, in grief and weariness, in order that he may lead men. Joy comes after.
The view of intelligence which holds it a gift not to be altered is passing, as deeper study and careful investigation show that a man may greatly improve the capacities of his mind by diligent cultivation. As a spur to greater accomplishments the following questions are offered:
1. In addition to the Bible, the Spirit of prophecy, and perhaps the annual Ministerial Reading Course, how many books have you read in the last year? One a month would be reasonable, though some are not satisfied with less than one a week. The book lover is tempted to read more than he should. "To spend too much time in studies is sloth." But most of us neglect reading.
2. How many books do you own? No real, lasting book is worth much to you unless you have reread it, marked it, made it your own by shelving it in your mind as well as in your library.
3. How do you read a lasting book? To put the question another way, How well worn is your dictionary? Ruskin asserts "that you might read all the books in the British Museum (if you could live long enough), and remain an utterly illiterate, uneducated person; but that if you read ten pages of a good book, letter by letter,—that is to say, with real accuracy,—you are forevermore in some measure an educated person." (This passage is from Sesame and Lilies, a lecture we would all do well to restudy.)
4. Do you subscribe to the curriculum of the schools of the prophets to the extent of reading poetry? If you do not like poetry, including the poetry of the Bible conceived as poetry rather than as doctrine, you may well question your fitness to preach. A preacher should be interested in the struggles and aspirations of men's minds, which are distilled and offered in concentrated and consecrated form in the great religious poetry of our literary heritage. Have you read, for example, Milton's Samson Agonistes or Paradise Regained,, Dryden's Religio Laici, Brown's Religio Medici (a prose work of high poetic quality), Tennyson's In Memoriam, or Browning's Saulf Read poetry much as you read the red books (Testimonies), not merely to find quotable passages—though you will find many—but to find cause to ponder.
5. How long since you have reread your church history or your secular history or your dogmatics or your Greek New Testament? Lawyers constantly reread their law books and doctors their medical treatises. These intellectual tools of your trade too often become dull with disuse.
6. How many magazines do you subscribe to, or have access to? A news journal, a few magazines of general interest and high quality, and several religious papers—in addition, of course, to our church papers—would constitute a reasonable minimum, if you read them.
7. How long since you have made an exhanstive study—as far as available materials permit—of a fundamental doctrine, committing your findings to complete notes or a well-worded article, just for your own benefit?
8. Do you have a systematic filing system for clippings, study notes, bibliography, articles, sermons, and the like?
9. How many times a year do you write out and memorize a sermon ? Time does not permit you to do this as a rule, and the extemporaneous discourse is in some ways to be preferred. But the written sermon is a check on careless phrasing and loose logic, and properly mastered, it does not bar the incorporation of ideas that arise from the inspiration of the occasion. Most of the great speeches which have been documented were written and memorized. There seems to be evidence in the gospels that Jesus either committed his great discourses to memory or used passages over which he had thought long and carefully so as to polish the phrasing. His speech was characterized by a sententiousness only achieved in modern practice by such careful methods. Caution: Never read your sermon!
10. Have you ever had an extemporaneous sermon "taken" in shorthand or by the Sound-scriber so that you could study it critically for ideas, logic, and phrasing? You might be amazed at the results of such an experiment.
11. Have you had your speech recorded? With the new tape and wire recorders it is an inexpensive process. Best of all, have someone in your church or community who owns a machine record all or part of a regular sermon. The awkward pauses, the "uhs," the grammatical errors, the mispronunciations, the run-together syllables—if there are any of these—will startle you into a quick reform.
12. Do you have a regular study schedule—certain inviolable hours—which will make possible some of these suggested accomplishments, so that the inevitable "business," which has a way, of pyramiding out of all proportion to its value, does not crowd out the essential elements in the intellectual life of a leader of men ?
After reading this, you may say with Milton, "This is not a bow fot everyone to shoot with." But some, if not all, of the suggestions will apply to your case. Many will apply if you genuinely long for a vital, progressive intellectual life.
"The hand of the diligent shall bear rule; but the slothful shall be put under taskzvork." Prov. 12:24, A.R.V.