I have been shown that the cause in Iowa is in a deplorable condition. Young men have been connected with the different branches of the work who have not been in a condition spiritually to benefit the people. Quite a number of inexperienced and inefficient men have been laboring in the cause who need a great work done for them.
The influence of Brother B has not been altogether what it should be. While at the college in Battle Creek he was in many respects an exemplary young man; but he, with other young gentlemen and ladies, in a secretive manner, made an excursion to -----. This was not noble, frank, and just. They all knew that it was a breach of the rules, but they ventured in the path of transgression. These young men, by this act and their attitude since in relation to their wrong course, have cast reflections upon the college that are most unjust.
When the brethren in Iowa accepted the labors of Brother B under these circumstances, they did wrong. If they pursue a similar course in other cases, they will greatly displease God. The fact that he had been a young man of excellent deportment gave him greater influence over others, and his example in standing in defiance of the rules and authority which sustain and control the school influenced others to do as he had done. Laws and regulations will be of no force in conducting the school if such things are sanctioned by our brethren at large. A demoralizing influence is easily introduced into a school. Many will readily partake of the spirit of rebellion and defiance unless prompt and vigilant efforts are continually put forth to maintain the standard of the school by strict rules regulating the conduct of the students.
The labors of Brother B will not be acceptable to God until he shall fully see and acknowledge his wrong in violating the
rules of the college and shall endeavor to counteract the influence he has exerted to injure its reputation. Many more students would have come from Iowa had it not been for this unhappy circumstance. Could you, Brother B, see and realize the influence of this one wrong step, and the feelings of passion, of jealousy, and almost hatred that filled your heart because your course was questioned by Professor Brownsberger, you would tremble at the sight of yourself and at the triumph of those who cannot bear restraint and who wage war against rules and regulations which check them from pursuing their own course. Being a professed disciple of the meek and lowly Jesus, your influence and responsibility are greatly increased.
Brother B, I hope you will go over the ground carefully and consider your first temptation to depart from the rules of the college. Study critically the character of the government of our school. The rules which were enforced were none too strict. But anger was cherished; for the time being, reason was dethroned and the heart was made a prey to ungovernable passion. Before you were aware, you had taken a step which a few hours previous you would not have taken under any pressure of temptation. Impulse had overcome reason, and you could not recall the injury done to yourself nor to an institution of God. Our only safety under all circumstances is in being always master of ourselves in the strength of Jesus our Redeemer.
Our college has not that influence of popular opinion to sustain it in exercising government and enforcing its rules, which other colleges have. In one respect it is a denominational school; but, unless guarded, a worldly character and influence will be given to it. Sabbathkeeping students must possess more moral courage than has hitherto been manifested, to preserve the moral and religious influence of the school, or it will differ from the colleges of other denominations only in name. God devised and established this college, designing that it should be molded by high religious interests
and that every year unconverted students who are sent to Battle Creek should return to their homes as soldiers of the cross of Christ.
Professors and teachers should reflect upon the best means of maintaining the peculiar character of our college; all should highly esteem the privileges which we enjoy in having such a school and should faithfully sustain it and guard it from any breath of reproach. Selfishness may chill the energies of the students, and the worldly element may gain a prevailing influence over the entire school. This would bring the frown of God upon that institution.
Those students who profess to love God and obey the truth should possess that degree of self-control and strength of religious principle that will enable them to remain unmoved amid temptations and to stand up for Jesus in the college, at their boardinghouses, or wherever they may be. Religion is not to be worn merely as a cloak in the house of God, but religious principle must characterize the entire life. Those who are drinking at the fountain of life will not, like the world ling, manifest a longing desire for change and pleasure. In their deportment and character will be seen the rest and peace and happiness that they have found in Jesus by daily laying their perplexities and burdens at His feet. They will show that there is contentment and even joy in the path of obedience and duty. Such will exert an influence over their fellow students which will tell upon the entire school. Those who compose this faithful army will refresh and strengthen the teachers and professors in their efforts by discouraging every species of unfaithfulness, of discord, and of neglect to comply with the rules and regulations. Their influence will be saving, and their works will not perish in the great day of God, but will follow them into the future world; and the influence of their life here will tell throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity. One earnest, conscientious, faithful young man in school is an inestimable treasure. Angels of heaven look lovingly upon him. His precious Saviour loves him, and in the Ledger of Heaven will be recorded every work
of righteousness, every temptation resisted, every evil overcome. He will thus be laying up a good foundation against the time to come, that he may lay hold on eternal life.
The course pursued at the college by Brother C, in seeking the society of young ladies, was wrong. This was not the object for which he was sent to Battle Creek. Students are not sent here to form attachments, to indulge in flirtation or courting, but to obtain an education. Should they be allowed to follow their own inclinations in this respect, the college would soon become demoralized. Several have used their precious school days in slyly flirting and courting, notwithstanding the vigilance of professors and teachers. When a teacher of any of the branches takes advantage of his position to win the affections of his students with a view to marriage, his course is worthy of severest censure.
The influence of the sons of Brother D and of several others from Iowa, also that of Mr. E of Illinois, has been no benefit to our school. The relatives and friends of these students have sustained them in casting reflections upon the college. The sons of Brother D have ability and aptness, which is a source of gratification to the parents; but when the ability of these young men is exerted to break down the rules and regulations of the college, it is nothing that should excite pleasure in the hearts of any. The paper containing that apt and sharp criticism concerning one who teaches in the college will not be read with such gratification in the day when every man's work shall pass in review before God. Brother and Sister D will then meet a record of the work they did in giving their son poorly concealed justification in this matter. They must then answer for the influence they have exerted against the school, one of God's instrumentalities, and for making the colored statements which have prevented youth from coming to the college, where they might have been brought under the influence of truth. Some souls will be lost in consequence of this wrong influence. The great day of God's judgment will unfold the influence of the words spoken and the attitude assumed. Brother and Sister D have duties
at home which they have neglected. They have been drunken with the cares of this life. Work and hurry and drive are the order of the day, and their intense worldliness has had its molding influence upon their children, upon the church, and upon the world. It is the example of those who hold the truth in righteousness which will condemn the world.
Upon Christian youth depend in a great measure the preservation and perpetuity of the institutions which God has devised as means by which to advance His work. This grave responsibility rests upon the youth of today who are coming upon the stage of action. Never was there a period when results so important depended upon a generation of men; then how important that the young should be qualified for the great work, that God may use them as His instruments. Their Maker has claims upon them which are paramount to all others.
It is God that has given life and every physical and mental endowment they possess. He has bestowed upon them capabilities for wise improvement, that they may be entrusted with a work which will be as enduring as eternity. In return for His great gifts He claims a due cultivation and exercise of their intellectual and moral faculties. He did not give them these faculties merely for their amusement, or to be abused in working against His will and His providence, but that they might use them to advance the knowledge of truth and holiness in the world. He claims their gratitude, their veneration and love, for His continued kindness and infinite mercies. He justly requires obedience to His laws and to all wise regulations which will restrain and guard the youth from Satan's devices and lead them in paths of peace. If youth could see that in complying with the laws and regulations of our institutions they are only doing that which will improve their standing in society, elevate the character, ennoble the mind, and increase their happiness, they would not rebel against just rules and wholesome requirements, nor engage in creating suspicion and prejudice against these institutions. Our youth should have a spirit of energy and fidelity to meet
the demands upon them, and this will be a guaranty of success. The wild, reckless character of many of the youth in this age of the world is heartsickening. Much of the blame lies upon their parents at home. Without the fear of God no one can be truly happy.
Those students who have chafed under authority, and have returned to their homes to cast reproach upon the college, will have to see their sin and counteract the influence they have cast, before they can have the approval of God. The believers in Iowa have displeased God in their credulity in accepting the reports brought them. They should ever be found on the side of order and discipline, instead of encouraging lax government.
A youth is sent from a distant state to share the benefits of the college at Battle Creek. He goes forth from his home with the blessing of his parents upon his head. He has listened daily to the earnest prayers offered at the family altar, and he is apparently well started in a life of noble resolve and purity. His convictions and purposes when he leaves home are right. In Battle Creek he will meet with associates of all classes. He becomes acquainted with some whose example is a blessing to all who come within the sphere of their influence. Again, he meets with those who are apparently kind and interesting, and whose intelligence charms him; but they have a low standard of morality and no religious faith. For a time he resists every inducement to yield to temptation; but as he observes that those who profess to be Christians seem to enjoy the company of this irreligious class, his purposes and high resolves begin to waver. He enjoys the lively sallies and jovial spirit of these youth, and he is almost imperceptibly drawn more and more into their company. His stronghold seems to be giving way; his hitherto brave heart is growing weak. He is invited to accompany them for a walk, and they lead him to a saloon. Oysters or other refreshments are called for, and he is ashamed to draw away and refuse the treat. Having once overstepped the bounds, he goes again and again. A glass of beer is thought to be unobjectionable, and
he accepts it; but still, with all, there are sharp twinges of conscience. He does not openly take his stand on the side of God and truth and righteousness; the society of the sly, deceptive class with which he is associated pleases him, and he is led a step further. His tempters urge that it is certainly harmless to play a game of cards and to watch the players in a billiard hall, and he yields repeatedly to the temptation.
Young men attend our college who, unsuspected by parents or guardians, hang about saloons, drink beer, and play cards and games in billiard halls. These things the students try to keep a profound secret among themselves; and professors and teachers are kept in ignorance of the satanic work going on. When this young man is enticed to pursue some evil course which must be kept secret, he has a battle with conscience; but inclination triumphs. He meant to be a Christian when he came to Battle Creek, but he is led steadily and surely in the downward road. Evil companions and seducers found among the youth of Sabbathkeeping parents, some of them living in Battle Creek, find that he can be tempted; and they secretly exult in their power and the fact that he is weak and will yield so readily to their seductive influences. They find that he can be shamed and confused by those who have had light and who have hardened their hearts in sin. Just such influences as these will be found wherever youth associate together.
The time will come when that young man who left his father's house pure and true, with noble purposes, will be ruined. He has learned to love the evil and reject the good. He did not realize his danger, not being armed with watchfulness and prayer. He did not place himself at once under the guardian care of the church. He was made to believe that it was manly to be independent, not allowing his liberty to be restricted. He was taught that to ignore rules and defy laws was to enjoy true freedom; that it was slavish to be always fearing and trembling lest he do wrong. He yielded to the influence of ungodly persons who, while carrying a fair exterior, were practicing deception, vileness, and iniquity;
and he was despised and derided because he was so easily duped. He went where he could not expect to find the pure and the good. He learned ways of life and habits of speech which were not elevating and ennobling. Many are in danger of being thus lead away imperceptibly until they become degraded in their own estimation. In order to gain the applause of the heartless and ungodly, they are in danger of yielding the purity and nobleness of manhood, and of becoming slaves to Satan.
I have been shown that Iowa will be left far behind other states in the standard of pure godliness if young men are permitted to have influence in her conference while it is evident that they are not connected with God. I feel it to be a most solemn duty resting upon me to say that Iowa would be in a better condition today if Brethren F and G had remained silent. Not having experimental godliness themselves, how can they lead the people to that Fountain with which they themselves are unacquainted?
A prevailing skepticism is continually increasing in reference to the Testimonies of the Spirit of God; and these youth encourage questionings and doubts instead of removing them, because they are ignorant of the spirit and power and force of the Testimonies . While thus unsanctified in heart their labor can do the people no good. They may apparently convince souls that we have the truth, but where is the Spirit and power of God to impress the heart and awaken conviction of sin? Where is the power to carry the convicted forward to an experimental knowledge of vital godliness? They have not a knowledge of this themselves; then how can they represent the religion of Christ? If young men would enter the field, in no wise discourage them; but first let them learn the trade.
Brother G might have united his efforts with those of the physicians at the sanitarium, but he could not harmonize with them. He was too self-sufficient to be a learner. He was
puffed up and egotistical. He had just as good a prospect as other young men; but while they were willing to receive instruction and to occupy any position where they could be of the greatest service, he would not adapt himself to the situation. He thought he knew too much to occupy a secondary position. He did not commend himself to the patients. He was so overbearing and dictatorial that his influence could not be tolerated in the sanitarium. He was not lacking in ability, and had he been willing to be taught he might have gained a practical knowledge of the work of a physician; had he preserved his spirit in meekness of humility he might have made a success. But natural defects of character have not been seen and overcome. There has been a disposition on his part to deceive, to prevaricate. This will destroy the usefulness of anyone's life, and would certainly close to him the doors of the ministry. The strictest veracity should be cultivated and all deception shunned as one would shun the leprosy. He has felt embarrassed because of his diminutive stature. This cannot be remedied, but it is within his power to remedy his defective character if he will. Mind and character may, with care, be molded after the divine Pattern.
It is the true elevation of the mind, not an affectation of superiority, that makes the man. The proper cultivation of the mental powers makes man all that he is. These ennobling faculties are given to aid in forming character for the future, immortal life. Man was created for a higher, holier state of enjoyment than this world can afford. He was made in the image of God for high and noble purposes, such as engage the attention of angels.
The youth of today do not generally think deeply or act wisely. Were they aware of the dangers besetting their every step, they would move cautiously and escape many snares that Satan has prepared for their feet. Be careful, my brother, not to appear what you are not. Gilded imitation will be readily distinguished from the pure metal. Examine with the greatest care not only yourself, but the position which each
one of your family occupies. Trace the history of each, and meditate as to the result of the course pursued. Consider why it is that some persons are loved and respected by the truly good, while others are despised and shunned. Look upon these things in the light of eternity, and wherein you discover that others have failed, carefully avoid the course that they have pursued. It will be well to remember that tendencies of character are transmitted from parents to children. Meditate seriously upon these things, and then in the fear of God gird on the armor for a life conflict with hereditary tendencies, imitating none but the divine Pattern. You must work with perseverance, constancy, and zeal if you would succeed. You will have yourself to conquer, which will be the hardest battle of all. Determined opposition to your own ways and your wrong habits will secure for you precious and everlasting victories. But while your strong traits of character are cherished, while you wish to lead in stead of being willing to follow, you will make no success. Your feelings are quick, and unless you are guarded you indulge in temper. Upon the young must rest responsibilities and the discharge of important duties; are you qualifying yourself to do your part in the fear of God?
Brother F is not fitted for his work. He has nearly everything to learn. His character is defective. He has not been educated from childhood to be a care-taker, a laborer, a burden bearer. He has not seen and felt the work to be done for himself, and hence is not prepared to appreciate the work to be done for others. He is self-sufficient. He assumes to know more than he really does. When he becomes thoroughly consecrated by the Spirit of God, and fully realizes the solemnity and responsibility of the work of a minister of Christ, he will feel himself entirely insufficient for the task. He is deficient in many respects; and his deficiencies will be reproduced in others, giving to the world an unfavorable impression of the character of our work and of the ministers who are engaged in it. He must become acquainted with the
burdens and duties of practical life before he can be fitted to engage in the most responsible work ever given to mortal man. All young ministers need to be learners before they become teachers. While I would encourage young men to enter the ministry, I would say that I am authorized of God to recommend and urge upon them a fitness for the work in which they are to engage.
The Brethren F are not inclined to be care-takers and burden bearers. Carelessness and imperfection are seen in all they undertake. They are reckless in their conversation and deportment. The solemn, elevating, ennobling influence which should characterize every minister of the gospel cannot be exerted in their lives until they have been transformed and molded after the divine image. Selfishness exists more or less in each of them, though in a much larger degree in some than in others. There is a spirit of self-sufficiency and self-importance in these young men that unfits them for the work of God. They need to severely discipline themselves before they can be accepted of God as laborers in His cause. There is a natural laziness that must be overcome. They should have a faithful drilling in the temporal affairs of life. They must be learners; and when they show a marked success in the lesser responsibilities, then they will be fitted to be entrusted with greater ones. The different conferences are better off without such inefficient workers. The burden of souls can no more rest upon men in their state of unconsecration than upon babes. They are ignorant of vital godliness and need a most thorough conversion before they can be even Christians.
Brother A F needs a thorough drill in our college. His language is defective. There is a coarseness and want of refinement in his deportment; yet notwithstanding this, he is self-sufficient and entirely deceived in regard to his ability. He has had no real faith in the Testimonies of the Spirit of God. He has not carefully studied them and practiced the truths brought out. While he has so little spirituality he will not understand the value of the Testimonies nor their real
object. These young men read the Bible, but they have very little experience in prayerful, earnest, humble searching of the Scriptures, that they may be thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
There is great danger of encouraging a class of men to enter the field who have no genuine burden for souls. They may be able to interest the people and to engage in controversy, while they are by no means men of thought, who will improve their ability and enlarge their capacities. We have a dwarfed and defective ministry. Unless Christ shall abide in the men who preach the truth, they will lower the moral and religious standard wherever they are tolerated. One example is given them, even Christ. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." In the Bible we have the unerring counsel of God. Its teachings, practically carried out, will fit men for any position of duty. It is the voice of God speaking every day to the soul. How carefully should the young study the word of God and treasure up its sentiments in the heart, that its precepts may be made to govern the whole conduct. Our young ministers, and those who have been some time preaching, show a marked deficiency in their understanding of the Scriptures. The work of the Holy Spirit is to enlighten the darkened understanding, to melt the selfish, stony heart, to subdue the rebellious transgressor, and save him from the corrupting influences of the world. The prayer of Christ for His disciples was: "Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth." The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, pierces the heart of the sinner and cuts it in pieces. When the theory of the truth is repeated without its sacred influence being felt upon the soul of the speaker, it has no force upon the hearers, but is rejected as error, the speaker making himself responsible for the loss of souls. We must be sure that our ministers are converted men, humble, meek, and lowly of heart.
There must be a decided change in the ministry. A more critical examination is necessary in respect to the qualifications of a minister. Moses was directed of God to obtain an experience in care-taking, in thoughtfulness, in tender solicitude for his flock, that he might, as a faithful shepherd, be ready when God should call him to take charge of His people. A similar experience is essential for those who engage in the great work of preaching the truth. In order to lead souls to the life-giving fountain, the preacher must first drink at the fountain himself. He must see the infinite sacrifice made by the Son of God to save fallen men, and his own soul must be imbued with the spirit of undying love. If God appoints us hard labor to perform, we must do it without a murmur. If the path is difficult and dangerous, it is God's plan to have us follow in meekness and cry unto Him for strength. A lesson is to be learned from the experience of some of our ministers who have known nothing comparatively of difficulties and trials, yet ever look upon themselves as martyrs. They have yet to learn to accept with thankfulness the way of God's choosing, remembering the Author of our salvation. The work of the minister should be pursued with an earnestness, energy, and zeal as much greater than that put forth in business transactions as the labor is more sacred and the result more momentous. Each day's work should tell in the eternal records as "well done;" so that if no other day should be granted in which to labor, the work would be thoroughly finished. Our ministers, young men especially, should realize the preparation necessary to fit them for their solemn work and to prepare them for the society of pure angels. In order to be at home in heaven, we must have heaven enshrined in our hearts here. If this is not the case with us, it were better that we had no part in the work of God.
The ministry is corrupted by unsanctified ministers. Unless there shall be altogether a higher and more spiritual standard for the ministry, the truth of the gospel will become more and more powerless. The human mind is represented by the rich
soil of a garden. Unless it shall receive proper cultivation, it will be overgrown with the weeds and briers of ignorance. The mind and heart need culture daily, and neglect will be productive of evil. The more natural ability God has bestowed upon an individual, the greater the improvement he is required to make, and the greater his responsibility to use his time and talents for the glory of God. The mind must not remain dormant. If it is not exercised in the acquisition of knowledge, there will be a sinking into ignorance, superstition, and fancy. If the intellectual faculties are not cultivated as they should be to glorify God, they will become strong and powerful aids in leading to perdition.
While young men should guard against being pompous and independent, they should be continually making marked improvement. They should accept every opportunity to cultivate the more noble, generous traits of character. If young men would feel their dependence upon God every moment and cherish a spirit of prayer, a breathing out of the soul to God at all times and in all places, they might better know the will of God. But I have been shown that Brethren F and G are almost wholly unacquainted with the operations of God's Spirit. They have been working in their own strength and have been so fully wrapped up in themselves that they have not seen and realized their great destitution. They talk flippantly of the Testimonies given of God for the benefit of His people, and pass judgment upon them, giving their opinions and criticizing this and that, when they would better place their hands upon their lips and lie with their faces in the dust; for they know no more of the spirit of the Testimonies than they do of the Spirit of God.
They are novices in the truth and dwarfs in religious experience. The greatest victories which are gained to the cause are not by labored argument, ample facilities, abundance of influence, and plenty of means; but they are those victories which are gained in the audience chamber with God, when earnest, agonizing faith lays hold upon the mighty arm of
power. When Jacob found himself utterly prostrate and in a helpless condition, he poured out his soul to God in an agony of earnestness. The angel of God pleaded to be released, but Jacob would not let go his hold. The stricken man, suffering bodily pain, presented his earnest supplication with the boldness which living faith imparts. "I will not let Thee go," he said, "except Thou bless me."
There are deep mysteries in the word of God, which will never be discovered by minds that are unaided by the Spirit of God. There are also unsearchable mysteries in the plan of redemption, which finite minds can never comprehend. Inexperienced youth might better tax their minds and exercise their ability to gain an understanding of matters that are revealed; for unless they possess more spiritual enlightenment than they now have, it would take a lifetime to learn the revealed will of God. When they have cherished the light they already have, and made a practical use of it, they will be able to take a step forward. God's providence is a continual school, in which He is ever leading men to see the true aims of life. None are too young, and none too old, to learn in this school by paying diligent heed to the lessons taught by the divine Teacher. He is the True Shepherd, and He calls His sheep by name. By the wanderers His voice is heard, saying: "This is the way, walk ye in it."
Young men who have never made a success in the temporal duties of life will be equally unprepared to engage in the higher duties. A religious experience is attained only through conflict, through disappointment, through severe discipline of self, through earnest prayer. Living faith must grasp the promises unflinchingly, and then many may come from close communion with God with shining faces, saying, as did Jacob: "I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved."
The steps upward to heaven must be taken one at a time; every advance step strengthens us for the next. The transforming power of the grace of God upon the human heart is a work which but few comprehend because they are too
indolent to make the necessary effort. The lessons which young ministers learn in going about and being waited upon when they have not a fitness for the work have a demoralizing influence upon them. They do not know their place and keep it. They are not balanced by firm principles. They talk knowingly of things they know nothing of, and hence those who accept them as teachers are misled. One such person will inspire more skepticism in minds than several will be able to counteract, do the best they can. Men of small minds delight to quibble, to criticize, to seek for something to question, thinking this a mark of sharpness; but instead it shows a mind lacking refinement and elevation. How much better to be engaged in seeking to cultivate themselves and to ennoble and elevate their minds. As a flower turns to the sun that the bright rays may aid in perfecting its beauty and symmetry, so should the youth turn to the Sun of Righteousness, that heaven's light may shine upon them, perfecting their characters and giving them a deep and abiding experience in the things of God. Then they may reflect the divine rays of light upon others. Those who choose to gather doubts and unbelief and skepticism will experience no growth in grace or spirituality and are unfitted for the solemn responsibility of bearing the truth to others.
The world is to be warned of its coming doom. The slumbers of those who are lying in sin and error are so deep, so deathlike, that the voice of God through a wide-awake minister is needed to awaken them. Unless the ministers are converted, the people will not be. The cold formalism that is now prevailing among us must give place to the living energy of experimental godliness. There is no fault with the theory of the truth; it is perfectly clear and harmonious. But young ministers may speak the truth fluently, and yet have no real sense of the words they utter. They do not appreciate the value of the truth they present, and little realize what it has cost those, who, with prayers and tears, through trial and opposition, have sought for it as for hid treasures. Every new link in the chain of truth was to them as precious as tried
gold. These links are now united in a perfect whole. Truths have been dug out of the rubbish of superstition and error, by earnest prayer for light and knowledge, and have been presented to the people as precious pearls of priceless value.
The gospel is a revelation to man of beams of light and hope from the eternal world. All the light does not burst upon us at once, but it comes as we can bear it. Inquiring minds that hunger for a knowledge of God's will are never satisfied; the deeper they search, the more they realize their ignorance and deplore their blindness. It is beyond the power of man to conceive the high and noble attainments that are within his reach if he will combine human effort with the grace of God, who is the Source of all wisdom and power. And there is an eternal weight of glory beyond. "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him."
We have the most solemn message of truth ever borne to the world. This truth is more and more respected by unbelievers because it cannot be controverted. In view of this fact, our young men become self-confident and self-inflated. They take the truths which have been brought out by other minds, and without study or earnest prayer meet opponents and engage in contests, indulging in sharp speeches and witticisms, flattering themselves that this is doing the work of a gospel minister. In order to be fitted for God's work, these men need as thorough a conversion as Paul experienced. Ministers must be living representatives of the truth they preach. They must have greater spiritual life, characterized by greater simplicity. The words must be received from God and given to the people. The attention of the people must be arrested. Our message is a savor of life unto life or of death unto death. The destinies of souls are balancing. Multitudes are in the valley of decision. A voice should be heard crying: If the Lord be God, follow Him: but if Baal, then follow him."
Prompt, energetic, and earnest action may save an
undecided soul. No one can tell how much is lost by attempting to preach without the unction of the Holy Spirit. There are souls in every congregation who are hesitating, almost persuaded to be wholly for God. The decision is being made for time and for eternity; but it is too often the case that the minister has not the spirit and power of the message of truth in his own heart, hence no direct appeals are made to those souls that are trembling in the balance. The result is that impressions are not deepened upon the hearts of the convicted ones, and they leave the meeting feeling less inclined to accept the service of Christ than when they came. They decide to wait for a more favorable opportunity, but it never comes. That godless discourse, like Cain's offering, lacked the Saviour. The golden opportunity is lost, and the cases of these souls are decided. Is not too much at stake to preach in an indifferent manner and without feeling the burden of souls?
In this age of moral darkness it will take something more than dry theory to move souls. Ministers must have a living connection with God. They must preach as though they believed what they said. Living truths, falling from the lips of the man of God, will cause sinners to tremble and the convicted to cry out: "Jehovah is the God; I am resolved to be wholly on the Lord's side." Never should the messenger of God cease his strivings for greater light and power from above. He should toil on, pray on, hope on, amid discouragement and darkness, determined to gain a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures and to come behind in no gift. As long as there is one soul to be benefited, he should press forward with new courage at every effort. There is work, earnest work, to be accomplished. Souls for whom Christ died are in peril. So long as Jesus has said, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee," so long as the crown of righteousness is offered to the overcomer, so long as our Advocate pleads in the sinner's behalf, ministers of Christ should labor in hope, with tireless energy and persevering faith.
But while the truth of God is carried by young and
inexperienced men whose hearts are scarcely touched by the grace of God, the cause will languish. Brethren F and G are more ready to argue than to pray; they are more ready to contend than to persuade, endeavoring to impress the people with the solemn character of the work for this time. Men who dare to assume the responsibility of receiving the word from the mouth of God and giving it to the people, make themselves accountable for the truth they present and the influence they exert. If they are truly men of God, their hope is not in themselves, but in what He will do for them and through them. They do not go forth self-inflated, calling the attention of the people to their smartness and aptness; they feel their responsibility and work with spiritual energy, treading in the path of self-denial which the Master trod. Self-sacrifice is seen at every step, and they mourn because of their inability to do more in the cause of God. Their path is one of trial and conflict; but it is marked by the footprints of their Redeemer, the Captain of their salvation, who was made perfect through suffering.
In their labor the undershepherds must closely follow the directions, and manifest the spirit, of the Chief Shepherd. Skepticism and apostasy are met everywhere. God wants men to labor in His cause who have hearts as true as steel and who will stand steadfast in integrity, undaunted by circumstances. Amid trial and gloom they are just what they were when their prospects were brightened by hope and when their outward surroundings were all that they could desire. Daniel in the lions' den is the same Daniel who stood before the king, enshrouded by the light of God. Paul in the dark dungeon, awaiting the sentence which he knew was to come from the cruel Nero, is the same Paul who addressed the court of Areopagus. A man whose heart is stayed upon God in the hour of his most afflicting trials and most discouraging surroundings is just what he was in prosperity, when the light and favor of God seemed to be upon him. Faith reaches to the unseen and grasps eternal things.
There are many in Iowa who are tearing down rather than building up, casting unbelief and darkness rather than light; and the cause of God is languishing when it should be flourishing. Ministers should dare to be true. Paul wrote to Timothy: "Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity." Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee." The word and will of God are expressed in the Scriptures by inspired penmen. We should bind them as frontlets between our eyes and walk according to their precepts; then we shall walk safely. Every chapter and every verse is a communication of God to man. In studying the word, the soul that hungers and thirsts for righteousness will be impressed by the divine utterances. Skepticism can have no power over a soul that with humility searches the Scriptures.