This article, emphasizing the solemn importance of the minister's work, was written while she was in Basel, Switzerland, and appeared originally in the Review and Herald of February 22, 1887, under the title, "Our Sacred Calling." It was suggested to us for reprinting by Pastor Marcius Siqueira of Lin coln, Nebraska.—Editors.
We are living in an important period of this world's history, and we need now to have a constant connection with God. The watchmen upon the walls of Zion need to be vigilant and faithful. Those who claim to be giving the words of the Lord to the people, should reach the highest standard of spiritual elevation; then they will not give to the people their own words. Christ says to us, "Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart." Learners in the school of Christ will watch and pray. They will have faith that God will imbue them with His Holy Spirit, that they shall not speak their own words to the people, but the words the Lord shall give them. The men who are laboring to win souls to Christ will have an intense interest to be successful in this work.
We do not want to lose sight of the peculiar sacredness of this mission of ministering in word and in doctrine to the people. It is the work of the minister to speak the words of truth to the people, solemn, sacred truth. Some form the habit of relating anecdotes in their discourses, which have a tendency to amuse and remove from the mind of the hearer the sacredness of the word which they are handling. Such should consider that they are not giving to the people the word of the Lord. Too many illustrations do not have a correct influence; they belittle the sacred dignity that should ever be maintained in the presentation of the word of God to the people.
It is the special business of God's delegated messenger to speak the truth in all its simplicity and purity. If he will learn in Christ's school, he will not depreciate his discourses by irrelevant ideas and by relating anecdotes. He should consider that he is standing between the eternal God and perishing souls. It is the duty of the gospel minister to cultivate a sense of his high and sacred calling, and to give evidence that he appreciates the privileges and opportunities placed within his reach through the example of Christ's meekness and love, and he should consider His sufferings and death, that he may bring these privileges within his reach. He should never become tame and lifeless in his efforts, but should be constantly reaching higher, and seeking to become better fitted through the grace Christ has provided. He should not be satisfied to.be merely a commonplace minister, but a polished instrument in the hands of Christ. He should be constantly seeking by his words, by his deportment, and by his piety, to elevate his fellowmen and to glorify God.
The work, and how it is done, is of great importance; therefore it requires the high est culture of the mind and purity of the soul to perform-it well. Every minister should make the most of the priceless opportunities placed within his reach, and should have a high and holy trust in God. He should increase by proper use the talents entrusted to .him, and then his powers for doing good will increase; and he should make it his special work to win souls to Christ. There are some who make so great efforts to display their oratory that they display themselves, and show their own ability, but do not lift up Jesus Christ before the people. Some seek earnestly to be sharp in argument, but do not evidence before the people the love and grace of Christ in the heart. They do not leave the impression upon the people that they have a solemn message from God to men, and that they have a knowledge of Jesus Christ.
It is important that the minister should have the spirit of Jesus. His teachings should show that he feeds on Christ, that he lives up to every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God; and in his familiarity with the word of God, he will be instant in season and out of season to bring from the treasure house of God things new and old.
He will reveal that a solemn sense of the value of souls is upon him, and that self is lost sight of as he presents the sacred truths of God to the people. He will not give the impression that he is seeking to make a display of intellect, but to hold up Jesus Christ, and Him crucified, before the people. Every one who is seeking to open the Scriptures to others should have an abiding sense of their accountability to God, and should realize that they are standing before a congregation of souls whom they will have to meet again at the judgment seat of Christ, and that their message will prove a savor of life unto life or of death unto death. Present before your hearers in simple language the claims of God's law upon men, while your own heart is softened and subdued by His Spirit. This is our message. God has given to man His rule of life in His holy law, to guide and control his words and actions. This law permits no neutrality. It has a bearing upon every man's life, and will not relax its hold until every case is decided for life eternal or for perdition.
If ministers of the word would bear in mind that they must meet every individual hearer before Heaven's tribunal, and render an account to God of the manner in which their mission has been performed, the motive and the spirit which has prompted their actions, there would be a more exalted ministry. This is a weight of responsibility which the messengers of truth cannot evade, and the minister who has a sense of the, exalted character of his work, well may inquire with Paul, "Who is sufficient for these things?" You are a spectacle unto .the world, to angels, and to men. Angels sympathize with the workers in their responsibilities, and will not you, the worker, cultivate correct views of your high calling and- sacred responsibilities? Well might you despair were it not for the evidence and assurance that your sufficiency is of God. The charge that Paul gave to Timothy is the charge that is given to every one whom God has sent forth to labor in the great harvest field. "I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom preach the word. Be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth,- and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist [this means much more than mere sermonizing], make full proof of thy ministry."
To minister comprehends much more than mere preaching. In order to fulfill this sacred and important work freighted with eternal interests, the minister must be a man of vital piety, or his labors will not be accepted of God. He must be a man who will not have an exalted opinion of himself, or of his own ability, but who will lose a sense of his importance in the exalted view he has of the matchless mercy and love of Jesus Christ. He then has a close walk with God. His life of piety an true holiness which he carries with him wherever he goes, and which is interwoven in all his works, makes him a successful and efficient worker. He is a colaborer with Jesus Christ, and is faithful in his appointed work, as Christ was faithful in His work. He will not, in word or action, exalt self, but in private conversation will talk of Christ; he will pray Christ, he will preach Christ. This is the kind of ministry that proves the worker to be called and chosen of God for his sacred work. In every discourse Christ is presented, set forth among them, not merely in the repetition of words, but in the deep fervor of the spirit; and the divine influence which accompanies the word gives full proof of his ministry. Sermonizing alone will not do this. It is the spirit of labor out of the pulpit that testifies of the true character of the worker. The special work for this time must be done in reaching the people through personal effort; it is the revealing of Christ in the deep interest that is shown for the souls of those for whom Christ has died. The habitual piety that attends the Christian worker will make its impression, and the minister will not feel that he is sufficient of himself. He will be found often in prayer, pouring out his soul, as did his Master before him, in strong crying and tears. Then his fervent, constant supplications will draw him nigh to God. He will live as ii) the light of His countenance. His deportment and conversation when with others will be in regard to their soul's highest interest. He will take individuals alone, will talk with them, pray with them; and it is this kind of labor that will be highly successful.
Oh there is a great want with the workers in this cause of earnest, deep love for the souls of those for whom they labor! God requires more of His servants than they give Him. Some form a habit of presenting arguments by which they obtain a surface knowledge of the truth. They have a runway of some doctrinal discourses, and they aim no higher. They do not seek to become familiar with the Scriptures, studying the prophecies that they may handle them at all times and in all places. They have not the living, abiding Christ in the heart, and therefore they do not love to dwell upon the practical teachings of Christ. Instead of giving full proof of their ministry, they show that they have but a limited knowledge of the truth. They are ignorant, both of the Scriptures and the power of God. They do not spend time in meditation and prayer. They are not acquainted with the movings of the Spirit of God. They neither pray, nor watch unto prayer. They keep Christ apart from their lives. Their dis courses are tame, spiritless, Christless, as destitute of the vital elements as was Cain's offering, in which was not expressed the world's Redeemer, the efficacy of the blood of Christ.
Jesus is not preached in very many of the pulpits of today. Anything and every thing but Christ is preached, for the very reason that the preacher is not acquainted with Christ. Some make it practice to study different authors, and think this will help them greatly in their discourses. They flatter themselves that they have a very intellectual discourse, and so they may have; but the flock is not fed with the bread of life; the crib was placed above their reach. That which the world and churches need today is the preaching of the blood of Christ and the virtue of His atonement, and to be taught what constitutes sin, and to have the spirit of Christ interwoven in all their labors. What the world needs today is to know what they must do to be saved. There are many interesting and pleasing discourses given that the speaker counts the very height of success, but they are not thus registered by Him who weighs the thoughts and motives of man, who looketh not at outward appearances but at the heart, who weighs such discourses in the balances of the sanctuary and pronounces them wanting. The only element which could make them a success is lacking—Jesus, the Light of the world.
There is need of most earnest prayer from the heart of the worker for the divine blessing, before he ventures to speak to the people. When the heart is at peace with God, when heaven's light illuminates the soul, then the lips will surely speak forth the words of Christ, by presenting the merits of the blood of a crucified and risen Saviour. The atmosphere of heaven will surround the speaker, and souls will indeed feel that they sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. There is no one subject more necessary than to teach the people, by precept and example, true godliness, faith and love in Jesus Christ. The great masses of the people are more ignorant than many suppose. They need to be instructed line upon line, and precept upon precept, in regard to what they must do to be saved. Graduates of colleges, and persons in the highest walks of life, eloquent orators, able statesmen, men in high and important positions of trust, have given the powers of their being and their intellect to other matters, but have neglected the things of highest importance to them. They are ignorant of the Scriptures and the power of God. When such men are seen in the congregation, the speaker generally strains every power to preach an intellectual discourse, and a subject is chosen that will have as little of the simplicity of true Bible religion and heart service to God in it as possible. They do not preach Christ. They do not define that sin is the transgression of the law. They seldom make plain the plan of salvation. They seldom tell what one must do to be saved. That which would have touched the hearts of the learned, the men in responsible positions, would have been to have shown them Christ upon the cross of Calvary, to bring redemption within their reach. They are to be taught as children how to make Jesus their friend, how to bring Him into their life work.
Ministers need to have a more clear, simple manner in presenting the truth as it is in Jesus. Their own minds need to comprehend the great plan of salvation more fully. Then they can carry the minds of the hearers away from earthly things to the spiritual and eternal. There are many who want to know what they must do to be saved. They want a plain and clear explanation of the steps requisite in conversion, and there should not a sermon be given unless a portion of that discourse is to especially make plain the way that sinners may come to Christ and be saved. They should point them to Christ, as did John, and with touching simplicity, their hearts aglow with the love of Christ, say, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world." Strong and earnest appeals should be made to the sinner to repent and be converted. Those who neglect this part of the work need to be converted themselves before venturing to give a discourse. Those whose hearts are filled with the love of Jesus, with the precious truths of His word, will be able to draw from the treasure house of God things new and old. They will not find time to relate anecdotes; they will not strain to become orators, soaring so high that they cannot carry the people with them; but in simple language, with touching earnestness, they will present the truth as it is in Jesus.
We need vital godliness in order to teach it to others. Those who live the religion of Christ, will bear a living testimony for Jesus. Of such Christ says, "Ye are my witnesses." We have a sacred and sanctifying truth to present to an unbelieving, gainsaying world. We have faithful testimonies of warning to be given to the world, and we can reach the people only through God. We must bring the sanctifying influence of the truth into our own daily lives, and God will qualify us for the work of arousing the slumbering, deadened consciences of sinners. We are not to be satisfied until the hearers are pierced to the heart by the powerful convictions of the Spirit of God of their guilt and sinfulness, and under a sense of their peril, cry out, What shall I do to be saved?