Bunyan, the Bedford tinker of immortal fame, in his inimitable way describes for our meditation and emulation the essentials of a Spirit-filled minister of God. In referring to a painting in his allegorical Gallery of Portraits he says:
"Christian saw the picture of a very grave person hung up against the wall ; and this was the fashion of it. It had eyes lifted up to heaven, the best of books in his hand, the law of truth was written upon his lips, the world was behind his back ; it stood as if it pleaded with men, and a crown of gold did hang over his head."—Pilgrim's Progress, p. 29.
What an arresting and striking picture of one of God's undershepherds ! What an interesting thought-provoking, detailed picture. The first feature to be noticed is that "it had eyes lifted up to heaven." He was a long-distance seer. The eyes of his understanding being opened, he is able to see Him who is invisible. In prayer and in expectation his gaze is on the unseen and eternal. Not until one gets the heavenly gaze is he ready to look with opened eyes upon the earth and the earthly, with their heavenly need.
"The best of books in his hand."—Like Apollos, he is an eloquent man, and mighty in the Scriptures. Every text of Scripture is to him a short cut to Christ—the man in the Book, the man of the Book. He has trodden the road to Emmaus until his heart burned within him. With Wesley he could say his heart had been "strangely warmed." And from the heart he too could say, "Such as I have give I thee."
"The law of truth was written upon his lips." —Truth was upon his lips because truth was in his heart, and it is still true that "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." Fellow ministers, what is the all-absorbing topic as we congregate in our threes and fours? Is it stocks and shares, profits and losses, houses and lands, cars and their comforts and conveniences ? Or is it God's truth, God's present truth for a doomed, perishing world?
"The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips: he walked with me in peace and equity, and did turn many away from iniquity. For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth : for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts." Mal. 2 :6, 7.
"The world was behind his back."—Somewhere back there in the days of the past he had counted the cost. He had made the greatest decision of his life, and now from the depths of his soul he could say and sing, "Take the world, but give me Jesus." He was not now worldly-minded, but otherworldly-minded. He gazed into the eyes of Jesus, and the things of the world grew strangely dim.
"It stood as if it pleaded with, men."—Now a debtor to all men, the cry of his soul is, "Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!" He believes it is still by the foolishness of preaching that God saves some. Like his Chief Shepherd, he too seeks the one-soul personal touch. Eloquent with the many, and earnest with one, his slogan is, "Won by One." He gives none the opportunity of someday saying, "You knew these things were coming, but did not tell me."
"A crown of gold did hang over his head."—Unseen by him, of course, but like Paul, there awaits him a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give at that day to him and to all them that love His appearing. The Second Advent of the loved and long-looked-for Saviour is the blessed hope of his soul and the theme of his message. With his fellow-minister Peter he has passed the essential and divinely required test of the Shepherd of souls—"Lovest thou me ?" Then with a heart burning with love for his God, for His Word and His work, he is sent forth to "feed my lambs"—"feed my sheep."
Elihu, one of Job's comforters, states that such ambassadors, such messengers, such interpreters, are one in a thousand. They are rare because few are willing to accept and profit by the necessary training in the school of affliction and suffering. Few develop in the soul that comfort wherewith they have been comforted.
"The gospel of a broken heart demands the ministry of bleeding hearts. As soon as we cease to bleed we cease to bless. When our sympathy loses its pangs we can no longer be servants of the Passion. We can never heal the needs we do not feel. Tearless hearts can never be the heralds of the Passion. We must bleed if we would be ministers of the saving blood."—J. H. JEWETT, Are We in the Succession?'