At the close of the hostilities in Europe, May 5, 1945, Field Marshal Montgomery voiced his satisfaction of achievement in these words: "This is the moment." For you this morning this is also a great moment, and may it prove to be the beginning of a new era in the further development of your spiritual powers.
I wish to congratulate you upon the successful completion of the respective courses in your chosen field of study. You have acquired advanced training in the field of Biblical research. Your church needs you and the service that you are prepared to give. As you seek to serve your God and His cause with the new tools of knowledge you now possess I most humbly beseech you to let faith lighten your way. These are times of national and international frustration. The stature of man has diminished morally and spiritually, and the end is not yet. The powerful crosscurrents in the political, economic, and social thinking of man has thrown the world into a state of perplexity. In these hard-to-be-understood times you will need the guiding hand of faith to lead you and to give you courage, certainty, and conviction.
As religious leaders, ministers of the remnant church with the last warning message of hope to a troubled world, you are going forth to work at a time that calls for supreme effort and divine wisdom.
In the world today political, economic, and scientific developments of revolutionary proportions have effected significant changes in man's living habits. New patterns of living have been forced upon communities and even upon nations. The impetus of postwar reconversion, technological advances, court decisions, and ideals of world reconstruction have accelerated these changes. As we view the signs ahead they seem to forecast further significant changes in the accustomed patterns of social relations. You will be compelled to discover ways of living and working effectively and successfully under these new and changed conditions.
Ben Duffy, now serving as general chairman of this year's observance of Brotherhood Week, points out that:
"Rarely in world history have the best hopes of mankind seemed dimmer than they are today. All of the resolution, the strength and the unity of the cause of freedom must be thrown into the balance in order that the principles we believe in may prevail."
To see a sermon rather than to hear one is no longer poetry but a living, breathing reality. Today the church is addressing itself to that which is its acknowledged concern—the translation of creed into deed —and it must be provided with sterling leadership for times like these.
The skies of the world are rapidly graying, and a tinge of inky blackness appears on the horizon. You will need Jesus as your counselor and His divine Spirit as your guide.
In your work for God you will be brought face to face with sin-sick souls of agnostic fame and spiritual diabetics suffering from too many worldly sweets.
Abounding Evil a Challenge
Men in high places are seeking to tamper with your freedom of speech and your freedom of worship. In a speech made last week Chief Justice Earl Warren said:
"The emotional influences of the times, coupled with latent suspicion and prejudice inherent in human nature, are capable of threatening the basic rights of everyone, unless those emotions are controlled by self-discipline, community spirit and governmental action."
In the world today there is a chronic craze for all varieties of fun and pleasure, and all manner of contrivances and mechanical devices are being utilized that will detract from your church services and interfere with your evangelistic meetings. For the reading public the book marts and magazine newsstands are being flooded with lurid material featuring depraved violence. Every conceivable kind of momentum is being given to the ground swell of political and atheistic revolution, which is ever silently working to weaken, if not to destroy, one's faith in truth, in goodness, and in God. The violent days of Noah are being reactivated, and the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah have been revived.
From the pen of inspiration I quote:
"Jesus calls for young men who will volunteer to carry the truth to the world. Men of spiritual stamina are wanted, men who are able to find work close at hand, because they are looking for it. The church needs new men to give energy to the ranks, men for the times, able to cope with its errors."—Gospel Workers (1893 ed.), p. 361.
You are some of the new men whom God is calling for today to give energy to the ranks and to cope with the errors of these times. In accepting the call of God to preach the gospel you have committed your lives to a great task. Let the world know that the urge of a world task is upon you, the spirit of God is within you, and that you will not fail in mobilizing men and women for the kingdom of God.
The abounding evil in the world today should challenge you to do your best for God and His cause. It has been said that the early Christians did not say in despair, Look what the world has come to, but with delight, Look what has come to the world. You have a message of hope and peace, good will and eternal life. Go tell it with all the spiritual stamina and power that God will give you.
Education of the conventional pattern is not sufficient to equip one for a dynamic role in the world reconstruction that is now taking place. The world needs new men to match these new mountains, and you will need faith to lighten your way.
Our Mission to the World
After completing your undergraduate work you chose to attend the Seminary because you were empowered by a great purpose. Your lifework is the high calling of God to minister rather than to be ministered unto. Your minds have been highly disciplined in the study of the Scriptures, and your training has been in the art of soul winning. Your great concern must be the salvation of men.
Your business is to preach to the world the righteousness of Christ, and to demonstrate by holiness of living that you have been overcome and conquered by the precious love of God as it is manifested in Jesus Christ. You are to bring men back to God by His saving power that they might be inspired by the blessed hope to live in obedience to all of His commands.
Go tell to the world that the wages of sin is death, and that they are now witnessing the judgments of God falling upon the ambitions and practices of sinful men, who are opposed to His righteousness. Tell them that instead of seeking first the kingdom of God they have sought after riches, luxuries, prestige, and dominion. Instead of seeking the peace of God they sought individual advantage, personal privilege, national aggrandizement, and that at whatever cost. Tell them that the mechanical, industrial, technological civilization they have made out of a good world which God created is now facing the beginning of its end. Tell them of the great angel John saw having a cloud for his garment and a rainbow upon his head, his face shining as the sun and his feet as pillars of fire. Tell them that when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, the angel set one foot upon the sea and the other upon the earth, and by so doing displayed his absolute authority, and lifted up his hand to heaven and swore by Him that liveth forever that there should be time no longer.
Tell them that soon the mystery of God, or the plan of redemption, will be finished, and that short is the time in which God can work out His plan of salvation for fallen man; that the Christ who cried out amid the darkness of Calvary's hill, "It is finished," will soon cry out from the shining throne of His mediation, "It is done."
You Must Live the Gospel
You must not only preach the gospel but live the gospel. The world needs reactivated the spirit of the good Samaritan. Let the world know that Christianity is not made up of systems, creeds, or rituals, but "is the word of Him who liveth and abideth forever. It is a living, animating principle, that takes possession of mind, heart, motives, and the entire man."—Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 421, 422.
That which you have received from this institution you owe to an estimated 2,200,000 people in the world. For everyone that is well fed there are three living in poverty. There are 160,000,000 living in America, where there is a food surplus, and many are living like Lazarus. Only one in ten has an income of six hundred dollars.
Be earnest, be alert, be able to stand success, have initiative, and be humble. It takes real greatness to remain a humble man. Someone has said, "If what you did yesterday still looks big to you, you haven't done much since." Toscanini, the greatest conductor of our time, once was rehearsing Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with the New York Philharmonic; his conducting was so inspiring that when the rehearsal ended, his musicians rose and cheered him. Toscanini with great effort tried to stop them. When the applause ceased, his trembling voice was heard to exclaim, "Toscanini is nothing! It isn't I; it's Beethoven!" As you preach let your motto be: "Not I, but Christ, be honored, loved, exalted, not I, but Christ, be seen, be known, be heard, not I, but Christ, in every look and action, not I, but Christ, in every thought and word."
Today you will leave your seminary professors as your counselors and advisers. You now go forth to walk more fully and more intimately with Him of whom you have been taught. You will now need to ask of Him who "giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not" before you can have that living bread to give to the people. You will discover that there is no inspired vitamin or spiritual tonic in theological notebooks that can be used as a substitute for your daily supply of the power of the living God. "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."
"Those who teach and preach the most effectively are those who wait humbly upon God, and watch hungrily for His guidance and His grace. Watch, pray, work—this is the Christian's watchword."— Gospel Workers, p. 257.
Grave problems await your counsel; you will need to speak wisely. Many souls are now "on the verge of the kingdom, waiting only to be gathered in." You must grasp them quickly. Burning coals of great opportunities for saving souls are under your feet—you must step lively. Eternity gilds the sky and there is not much time left. There is uncertainty in the world, but God's program for His church and the ultimate triumph of the gospel is sure.
"Light Your Taper From the Burning Bush"
This is no time for timid or fearful souls. Each one of you must be a flaming fire for God. There is no work comparable in worth, beauty, and power to that of rescuing the perishing or lifting up the fallen. The man who keeps himself in the presence of Christ, and his hands in His service will discover his true self and the great possibilities that lie within him.
If you will allow the Spirit of God to fill your life, your feet will find the path of duty and your hands will find a place for service.
In your work for the church make it your high purpose to develop a reputation for reliability and dependableness. And enter every campaign of Christ's church with undiscouragable enthusiasm.
You must not only satisfy men's understanding regarding present truth, but you must stir their will to act. As God's ministering servants, light your taper from the burning bush and lift from your feet the shoes of worldliness, because the purpose of your dedication is holy. As you go out into the world, where darkness has covered the earth and gross darkness the people, lift up your voices like trumpets and declare that the hour of God's judgment is come. Keep the fire of God's love burning in your soul, remembering that the love of God is broader than the measure of man's mind. Your attitude and your sympathetic understanding of people and the manner in which you deal with their problems will determine your success. I counsel you that some of your most convincing eloquence and winning arguments will be found in what you did not say rather than in what you may say.
In the Wesleyan chapel at Nottingham, England, a memorial tablet keeps fresh in mind the fact that General William Booth, of the Salvation Army, was converted there. One day an old army officer in uniform stood before that tablet. After a moment's silence he asked the minister, "Can a man say his prayers here?" "Certainly," the minister replied. The old army officer dropped down on his knees and cried, "O God, do it again! Do it again!"
Let us thank God that His transforming power is still able to make of us mighty men of God.
May your hearts pulsate with passionate ardor as you contemplate your lifework, and may you experience the quickening of the pulse of a Moody or a Wesley. As you behold the soul-winning distinction God wills to men whose lives are consecrated to Him, may you fall down upon your knees and cry out to God with all sincerity and earnestness of soul, "0 God, do it again! Do it again!" Then may you rise all ablaze for God, with a faith that has been fanned brightly into a burning flame and with His grace and power flowing freely through a life that has been committed to His service.
"Paul's life," we are told, "was an exemplification of the truths he taught; and herein lay his power. His heart was filled with a deep, abiding sense of his responsibility; and he labored in close communion with Him who is the fountain of justice, mercy, and truth. He clung to the cross of Christ as his only guarantee of success. The love of the Saviour was the undying motive that upheld him in his conflicts with self, and in his struggles against evil, as in the service of Christ he pressed forward against the unfriendliness of the world and the opposition of his enemies.
"What the church needs in these days of peril, is an army of workers who like Paul, have educated themselves for usefulness, who have a deep experience in the things of God, and who are filled with earnestness and zeal. Sanctified, self-sacrificing men are needed; men who will not shun trial and responsibility; men who are brave and true; men in whose hearts Christ is formed 'the hope of glory,' and who with lips touched with holy fire will 'preach the word.' "—Acts of the Apostles, p. 507.
John Wesley was once asked the secret of how he drew such large crowds, to which he replied: "I simply set myself on fire and folks come to see me burn."
May each one of you be inspired with the enthusiasm of the minister of my ethnic group of former times as he sought God for the evangelistic fire to descend upon a fellow minister. He prayed in part:
'O Lord, give thy servant this morning the eyes of the eagle and the wisdom of the owl. Connect his soul with the gospel telephone in the central skies. Illuminate his brow with the sun of heaven; poison his mind with love for the people; turpentine his imagination; loosen his tongue with the sledge hammer of thy power; electrify his brain with the 'lightening' of thy word; put perpetual motion in his arms; fill him plumb full of the dynamite of thy glory; anoint him all over with the kerosene of thy salvation, and then please, O Lord, just set him on fire."
Members of this graduating class, Go forth to your work electrified by God's divine Spirit, surcharged by His matchless grace and power, and filled with love for the cause you represent; and as you go let faith lighten your way.