We never cease to wonder at the greatness of the apostle Paul as he endeavored to train others to be of service in the gospel ministry. He took endless trouble, and had the patience to bring to their attention many of the aspects of human life and details of Christian living. The instruction he gave was always based on sound, sincere principles. His desire was to build up the spiritual life of the individual worker and church member.
In the second chapter of Titus Paul makes the statement "shewing thyself a pattern of good works" (v. 7). There is no element in the preacher's life that is of more importance than his example. Here the apostle uses the word "pattern," and how full of meaning that word can be. The carpenter works from a pattern. The founder of metals uses a pattern to make his molds. The dressmaker would be lost without a pattern. And the apostle exhorts Titus in this chapter to be a "pattern of good works" in his work for God.
In the ninth verse of this chapter the apostle mentions a special class of people who were then coming into the church of God—the slaves. Sometimes I think that we who live in the liberty of the twentieth century, with all its privileges, can have only an inadequate idea of what it is to be a slave. In the time of the apostles slaves were numerous throughout the Roman Empire. Historians tell us that there were two slaves to every free man on the streets of Rome. Many of them had been taken as prisoners of war, torn from their loved ones and carried to a far country. There they were at the mercy of their Roman masters, who sometimes sold them to other masters perhaps more cruel than themselves. Some were chained to galleys and were then made to row under detestable circumstances. Many of these died of overwork and exposure. Others were attached to households to take care of the children or to do the hard work of the farm or shop.
When giving instruction to Titus, Paul emphasized the need for helping these poor, destitute human beings, whose mental and moral conditions are hard for us to comprehend today. Just think what it must have meant to these slaves to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, the gospel of love and freedom—the two things which they had been denied. What joy must have filled their hearts when they first saw the rays of hope in the message brought to them by the apostles. It was such a contrast to their hopeless state as slaves. Paul exhorted these destitute ones to be clean in their lives, in their homes, and about their persons. As they looked at the brands on their body —evidence that they were slaves of a certain master—they would be reminded that they were to show forth the marks of the Lord Jesus in their life and character. In this way the slave would find joy and consolation in the realities of the gospel.
The message given to these people also suggested that although they were poor, cast Out, unfortunate slaves they could "adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things." Some ways in which they could do this were mentioned. They were to be obedient to their masters and to please them in all things. They were not to be "answering again" to their masters, and "not purloining." The word "purloin" means to filch, to take something, possibly something small, that rightfully belongs to another. I presume that a slave who did not return the change after making a purchase for his master would be purloining. If he were sent to work in the fields and did not work faithfully, that would be purloining.
The essence of the apostle's message to all is that in doing faithfully and honestly the humble things of life—in the shop, in the kitchen, on the farm, in the office, or elsewhere—it is possible for the members of the church and workers in the cause of God to "adorn the doctrine of God."
In the early days of the Seventh-day Adventist Church there was a great scarcity of funds to carry on the work. Policies and plans had to be made in branches of activity in which the church had very little experience. On one occasion when James White was in California he saw the need for a printing press on the West Coast. But there was no experienced help available to run a press. So, besides raising money among the believers for this project, he provided $650 from his personal funds to bring five trained young people from across the country to work in the press. He had also contributed $1,000 to this new enterprise previously. Elder White adorned the doctrine by giving of his means and also of his strength, as the following experience related by Mrs. White will show.
My husband stopped hauling stone, and with his ax went into the woods to chop cordwood. With a continual pain in his side, he worked from early morning till dark to earn about fifty cents a day. We endeavored to keep up good courage, and trust in the Lord. I did not murmur. In the morning I felt grateful to God that He had preserved us through another night, and at night I was thankful that He had kept us through another day.—Life Sketches, p. 105.
In this hard experience the servant of the Lord refrained from murmuring. How easy it is to murmur and complain, but by refusing to do this we can "adorn the doctrine."
Robert G. Ingersoll was one of the outstanding atheists of his time. He sent his Aunt Sarah one of his books that was a criticism of the Holy Scriptures. On the flyleaf over Ingersoll's signature were these words: "If all Christians had lived like Aunt Sarah, perhaps this book would never have been printed." This is a beautiful tribute to one who had evidently lived a consistent Christian life and so adorned the doctrine of God.
Disappointment is one of our most trying experiences. We set out on a course of action, determined to be something or do something. Then we find almost insurmountable obstacles in our path. But even in our disappointments we can "adorn the doctrine."
In the spring of 1865 a young man had been graduated from Harvard College and in the autumn he took a position in Boston as a school teacher. For a few months things went very well. Then trouble began.
The young teacher had difficulty with his students. He wrote to a friend that the class he was teaching was "the most disagreeable set of creatures without exception that I have ever met." Then he added concerning himself, "I am tired, sick, cross, and almost dead."
In the winter he was asked to leave the school inasmuch as he was not able to meet the requirements for a teacher. This was humiliating. It was a personal catastrophe. Besides being dismissed as a teacher, the headmaster told him that he had never known anybody to make a success of another calling who had failed as a teacher.
After six months of heart searching this young man decided to study for the ministry. He did not allow his disappointment at not being able to continue as a school teacher to spoil his whole life, and thus he adorned the doctrine of Jesus Christ. The young man was Phillips Brooks, whom we know became one of Protestantism's greatest preachers.
We are told that even when he was a preacher he still had the idea of someday being a teacher again. He is reported as having once sought a teaching position from Charles W. Eliot, president of Harvard, when he was at the height of his fame. Yes, Phillips Brooks wanted to be a teacher, but when circumstances pointed elsewhere, he was willing to follow, and the Lord was able to use him greatly in His service.
John Wesley went from England to what was then the mission field of Georgia. After he had been there for some time he clashed with administration authorities, some of whom were members of his church. As a result of these differences he returned to England, a disillusioned man. Discouraged, he sought counsel from his friend Peter Bolller about discontinuing the ministy. Bolder counseled him, "By no means." Wesley asked, "But what can I preach?" "Preach faith till you have it; and then, because you have it, you will preach faith," said Bohlen
With these words of courage Wesley was off on his great career of preaching. Peter Bailer had adorned the doctrine by encouraging a fellow worker. Wesley adorned the doctrine by holding on and proving that he had, indeed, been called to the ministry.
Fellow workers, let us make sure we also are adorning the doctrine by our attitude to the experiences that come day by day.