I have been shown that there is danger of our young ministers entering the field and engaging in the work of teaching the truth to others when they are not fitted for the sacred work of God. They have no just sense of the sacredness of the work for this time. They feel a desire to be connected with the work, but they fail to bear the burdens lying directly in the pathway of duty. They do that which costs them but little taxation and inconvenience, and neglect to put their whole souls into the work.
Some are too indolent to make a success of life in business matters and are deficient in the experience necessary to make them good Christians in a private capacity; yet they feel competent to engage in the work which is of all others the most difficult, that of dealing with minds and trying to convert souls from error to the truth. The hearts of some of these ministers are not sanctified by the truth. All such are merely stumbling blocks to sinners and are standing in the way of real laborers. It will take more stern labor to educate them to right ideas, that they may not injure the cause of God, than to do the work. God cannot be glorified or His cause advanced by unconsecrated workmen who are entirely deficient in the qualifications necessary to make a gospel minister. Some young ministers who go forth to labor for others need themselves to be thoroughly converted to the genuine religion of the Bible.
I was shown the case of Brother R of -----, which in many respects represents the cases of others. I was shown that Brother R is no real advantage to the cause of God and never can be unless he has a thorough conversion. He has many defects in his character which he must see before he can be accepted of God as a laborer in His vineyard. The work of God is sacred. In the first place, Brother R has not met with that change of heart which transforms the man and is called conversion. He has a religion of the head, but he needs the work of the grace of God upon the heart to be carried out in the life before he can understandingly point others to the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world. The work for this time is altogether too solemn and too important to be handled with unclean hands and impure hearts.
Brother R has a very unhappy temperament. This makes trouble for himself and for his best friends. He is naturally jealous, suspicious, and faultfinding. Those most closely connected with him will feel this most deeply. He has much self-love and large self-esteem, and if he is not especially regarded and made an object of attention he feels as though someone were to blame. The fault exists in himself. He loves to have his vanity flattered. He is suspicious of the motives of others and shows in these feelings a very narrow, selfish mind. He thinks that he sees much to question, to find fault with, and to censure in the plan of others' labors, when the real evil exists in his own unhumbled, unconsecrated heart. Self, in him, must die, and he must learn of Jesus, who is meek and lowly of heart, or he will fail of perfecting Christian character and of gaining heaven at last.
Brother R has made a failure in his manner of seeking to teach the truth to others. His spirit is not winning. Self is mixed with all his efforts. He is quite particular about the externals, so far as his apparel is concerned, as though this would designate him as a minister of Christ; but he has neglected the inward adornment of the soul. He has not felt the necessity of seeking for a beautiful, harmonious character, resembling the character of Christ, the correct pattern. The
meekness and humility which characterized the life of Jesus would win hearts and give him access to souls; but when Brother R speaks in his own spirit, the people see so much self exhibited, and so little of the spirit of humility, that their hearts are not touched, but grow hard and cold under his preaching, because it lacks the divine unction.
The self-confident, self-exalted spirit of Brother R must be put away, and he must see that he is sinful and in need of continual grace and power from God to press through the moral darkness of this degenerate age and reach souls who need to be saved. He has put on upon the outside the dignity of a gospel minister, while he has not felt that a real experience in the mystery of godliness and a knowledge of the divine will were essential to making a success of presenting the truth.
Brother R is too cold and unsympathizing. He does not come directly to hearts by the Christian simplicity, tenderness, and love which characterized the life of Christ. In this respect it is essential that every man who labors for the salvation of souls should imitate the pattern given him in the life of Christ. If men fail to educate themselves to become workers in the vineyard of the Lord, they might better be spared than not. It would be poor policy to support from the treasury of God those who really mar and injure His work, and who are constantly lowering the standard of Christianity.
In order for a man to become a successful minister, something more than book knowledge is essential. The laborer for souls needs integrity, intelligence, industry, energy, and tact. All these are highly essential for the success of a minister of Christ. No man with these qualifications can be inferior, but will have commanding influence. Unless the laborer in God's cause can gain the confidence of those for whom he is laboring, he can do but little good. The worker in the Lord's vineyard must daily derive strength from above to resist wrong and to maintain uprightness through the varied trials of life, and his soul must be brought into harmony with his Redeemer. He can be a co-worker with Jesus, working as He
worked, loving as He loved, and possessing, like Him, moral power to stand the strongest tests of character.
Brother R should cultivate simplicity. He should lay aside his false dignity and let the Spirit of God come in and sanctify, elevate, purify, and ennoble his life. Then he can bear the burden for souls which a true gospel minister must feel when presenting a message of solemn warning to those in peril, who must perish in their darkness unless they accept the light of truth. This dignity borrowed from his Redeemer will adorn with divine grace, for by it he is brought into close union with Jesus Christ.
I was carried forward in the life of Brother R, and then carried back to review the result of his labors while he was attempting to teach others the truth. I saw that some few would listen, and, as far as the head is concerned, might be convinced; but Brother R has not an experimental, daily, living knowledge of the grace of God and His saving power, and he cannot convey to others what he does not himself possess. He has not the experience of a truly converted man. How, then, can God make him a blessing to sinners? He is blind himself, while trying to lead the blind.
I was shown that his work has spoiled good fields for others. Some men who were truly consecrated to God and who felt the burden of the work might have done good and brought souls into the truth in places where he has made attempts without success, but after his superficial work the golden opportunity was gone. The minds that might have been convinced, and the hearts that might have been softened, have been hardened and prejudiced under his efforts.
I looked to see what souls of value were holding on to the truth as the result of his labors. I watched closely to see what watchcare he had had for souls, to strengthen and encourage them, a labor which should ever accompany the ministry of the word. I could not see one who would not have been in a far better condition had he not received the first impressions of the truth from him. It is about impossible for a stream to
rise higher than its fountainhead. The man who bears the truth to sinners stands in a fearfully responsible position. Either he will convert souls to Christ or his efforts will balance them in the wrong direction.
I have been shown that Brother R is an indolent man. He loves his pleasure and his ease. He does not love physical labor, neither does he love close application of the mind to the study of the word. He wants to take things lazily. He will go to a place and attempt to introduce the truth there, when his heart is not in it. He feels no weight of the work, no real burden for souls. He has not the love of souls at heart. He lets his inclinations divert him from the work, suffers his feelings to control him, and leaves the work and goes back to his family. He has not an experience in self-denial, in sacrificing his ease and his inclinations. He labors too much with respect to wages. He does not apply himself closely to his work, but merely touches it here and there without perseverance or earnestness, and so makes a success of nothing. God frowns upon all such professed workers. They are unfaithful in everything. Their consciences are not sensitive and tender.
To introduce the truth into places and then lack courage, energy, and tact to carry the matter through is a great error, for the work is left without that thorough and persevering effort being made which is positively essential in these places. If matters go hard, if opposition arises, he makes a cowardly retreat instead of fleeing to God with fasting and praying and weeping, and by faith clinging to the Source of light and power and strength until the clouds break away and the darkness disperses. Faith grows strong by coming in conflict with doubts and opposing influences. The experience gained in these trials is of more value than the most costly jewels.
The result of your labors, Brother R, should make you ashamed. God cannot accept them. It would be better for the cause of God if you would cease preaching, and take up a work which involves less responsibility. It would be better for you to go to work with your hands. Humble your heart
before God; be faithful in temporal matters; and when you show that you are faithful in the smaller responsibilities, God may commit to you higher trusts. "He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much." You need a deeper experience in religious things. I advise you to go to work with your hands and earnestly plead with God for an experience for yourself. Cling to Jesus and never, never dare to assume the responsibilities of a gospel minister until you are a converted man and have a meek and peaceable spirit. You need to tarry away from the work of God till you are endowed with power from on high. No man can make a success of saving souls unless Christ works with his efforts and self is put out of sight.
A minister of Christ should be thoroughly furnished unto all good works. You have made a miserable failure. You must show in your family that kindly consideration, that tenderness, love, gentleness, noble forbearance, and true courtesy, that is becoming to the head of a family, before you can make a success of winning souls to Christ. If you have not wisdom to manage the small number with whom you are closely united, how can you make a success of managing a larger company, who are not especially interested in yourself? Your wife needs to be truly and thoroughly converted to God. Neither of you are in a condition to correctly represent our faith. You both need a thorough conversion.
Retirement from the work of God at present is best for you. Brother R, you have neither perseverance nor moral backbone. You are very deficient in those traits of character which are necessary for the work of God at this time. You have not received that education in practical life that is necessary for you in order to make a success as a practical minister of Christ. Your education has been deficient in many respects. Your parents have not read your character, nor trained you to overcome its defects, to the end that you might develop a symmetrical character, and possess firmness, self-denial, self-control, humility, and moral power. You know very little of
practical life or of perseverance under difficulties. You have a strong desire to controvert others' ideas and to press forward your own. This is the result of your feelings of self-sufficiency and of following your own inclinations in youth.
You do not see yourself and your errors. You are not willing to be a learner, but have a great desire to teach. You form opinions of your own and cling to your peculiar ideas with a persistency that is wearying. You are anxious to carry your points, and in your eyes your ideas are of greater importance than the experienced judgment of men of moral worth who have been proved in this cause. You have been flattered with the idea that you had ability that would be prized and make you a valuable man; but these qualities have not been tested and proved. You have a one-sided education. You have no inclination or love for the homely, daily duties of life. Your indolence would be sufficient to disqualify you for the work of the ministry were there no other reasons why you should not engage in it. The cause does not need preachers so much as workers. Of all the vocations of life, there is none that requires such earnest, faithful, persevering, self-sacrificing workers as the cause of God in these last days.
The enterprise of obtaining eternal life is above every other consideration. God wants no laggards in His cause. The work of warning sinners to flee from the wrath to come requires earnest men who feel the burden of souls and who will not be ready to avail themselves of every excuse to avoid burdens or to leave the work. Little discouragements, as unpleasant weather or imaginary infirmities, seem sufficient to Brother R to excuse him from making exertion. He will even appeal to his sympathies; and when duties arise that he does not feel inclined to perform, when his indolence clamors for indulgence, he frequently makes the excuse that he is sick, when there is no reason why he should be sick, unless through indolent habits and indulgence of appetite his entire system has become clogged by inaction. He may have good health if he will strictly observe the laws of life and health, and carry out the light upon health reform in all his habits.
Brother R is not the man for the work in these last days unless he entirely reforms. God does not call for ministers who are too indolent to engage in physical labor, to bear the testing message of warning to the world. He wants workers in His cause. Real, earnest, self-denying workers will accomplish something.
Brother R, your teaching the truth to others has been an entire mistake. If God calls a man, He will not make so great a blunder as to take one of so little experience in practical life and spiritual things as you have had. You have ability to talk, as far as that is concerned, but God's cause requires men of consecration and energy. These traits you may cultivate; you may gain them if you will. By perseveringly cultivating the opposite traits of those wherein you now fail, you may learn to overcome those deficiencies in your character which have increased from your youth. To merely go out and speak to the people now and then is not working for God. There is no real work in it.
Those who labor for God have but just begun the work when they have given a discourse in the desk. After this comes the real labor, the visiting from house to house, conversing with members of families, praying with them, and coming close in sympathy to those whom we wish to benefit. It will not detract from the dignity of a minister of Christ to be awake to see and realize the temporal burdens and cares of the families he visits, and to be useful, seeking to relieve them where he can by engaging in physical labor. In this way he can have a power of influence to disarm opposition and break down prejudice, that he would fail to have if he were in every other respect fully efficient as a minister of Christ.
Our young ministers have not the burden of writing that the older and more experienced ones have. They have not a multiplicity of responsibilities which tax the mind and wear upon the man. But it is these very burdens of care that perfect Christian experience, give moral power, and make strong, efficient men of those engaged in the work of God. Avoiding
burdens and disagreeable responsibilities will never make our ministers strong men that can be depended upon in a religious crisis. Many of our young ministers are as weak as babes in the work of God. And some who have been engaged in the work of teaching the truth for years are not yet able workmen, who need not be ashamed. They have not grown strong in experience by being called out by opposing influences. They have excused themselves from that exercise which would strengthen the moral muscles, giving spiritual power. But this is the very experience they need in order to attain to the full stature of men in Christ Jesus. They gain no spiritual power by shirking duties and responsibilities, and giving up to indolence and selfish love of ease and pleasure.
Brother R is not lacking in ability to clothe his ideas in words, but he is lacking in spirituality and true heart holiness. He has not drunk deeply himself at the fountain of truth. Had he improved his golden moments in studying the work of God he might now have been an able workman, but he is too indolent to make close application of the mind and to learn for himself the reasons of our hope. He is content to take material which other minds and other pens have labored to produce, and to use their thoughts, which are prepared to his hand, without effort or exertion of mind, careful thought, or prayerful meditation himself.
Brother R does not love close application either in the study of the Scriptures or in physical labor. He prefers an easier way, and as yet knows nothing experimentally of the burden of the work of God. It is easier for him to repeat the thoughts of others than to diligently search for the truth himself. It is only by personal effort, close application of the mind, and thorough devotion to the work that men become competent for the ministry.
Says Christ: "Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted?" The savor of the salt is divine grace. All the efforts made to advance the truth are of but little value unless the Spirit of God accompanies them. You have made child's play of teaching the
truth. Your mind has been on your own ease and pleasure, following your inclination. You and your wife have no real sense of the sacredness of the work of God. You both think more of pleasing your fancies and studying to gratify your desires for ease and enjoyment than of engaging in the stern duties of life, especially the responsibilities connected with the work of warning the world of the coming judgment.
You have seen Brother S weighed down with burdens and wearied with physical labor; but you have had so great a love for your ease and such a desire to maintain your own importance that you have held yourself aloof, excusing yourself from engaging in the duties which someone was obliged to perform. You have passed days in easy indolence without benefiting anyone, and then your conscience could permit you without compunction to bring in time mostly spent in indolence and to receive pay from God's treasury.
You have shown by your course that you had not a high sense of sacred things. You have robbed God, and you should now seek to make thorough work of repentance. Do not attempt to teach others. When you are converted, then you may be able to strengthen your brethren; but God has no use for men of your stamp of character in His vineyard. When you get this stamp off, and bear the impress of the divine, then you may work for the cause of God. You have almost everything to learn and but a short time in which to learn these lessons. God help you to work earnestly and to the point. I have written much more upon general principles, but cannot find time to give it to you at present.