October 2, 1868, I was shown the great and solemn work before us of warning the world of the coming judgment. Our example, if in accordance with the truth we profess, will save a few, and condemn the many, leaving them without excuse in the day when the cases of all will be decided. The righteous are to be prepared for everlasting life, and sinners, who will not become acquainted with the will and ways of God, are appointed to destruction.
Not all who preach the truth to others are sanctified by it. Some have but faint views of the sacred character of the work. They fail to trust in God and to have all their works wrought in Him. Their inmost souls have not been converted. They have not in their daily life experienced the mystery of godliness. They are handling immortal truths, weighty as eternity,
but are not careful and earnest to have these truths inwrought in their souls, made a part of themselves, so that they shall influence them in all they do. They are not so wedded to the principles which these truths inculcate that it is impossible to separate any part of the truth from them.
Sanctification of heart and life is alone acceptable with God. Said the angel, as he pointed to the ministers who are not right: "Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double-minded." "Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord." God calls for integrity of soul; for truth in the inward parts, transforming the entire man by the renewing of the mind through the influences of the divine Spirit. Not all the ministers are devoted to the work; not all have put their hearts into it. They move as listlessly as though a temporal millennium were allowed them in which to work for souls. They shun burdens and responsibilities, care and privations. Self-denial, suffering, and weariness are not pleasant nor convenient. It is the study of some to save themselves from wearing labor. They study their own convenience and how to please themselves, their wives, and their children; and the work upon which they have entered is nearly lost sight of.
God calls for humiliation of soul and humble confessions from the ministers whose works have not been wrought in Him. I was cited to men who engage in worldly enterprises. They know that if they would gain their object they must suffer fatigue. They sacrifice ease and love of home, and endure privations; they are persevering, energetic, and ardent. Our ministers do not all manifest half the zeal shown by those who are securing earthly gain. They are not as intent upon their purpose, nor as earnest in their efforts; they are not as persevering, and are not as willing to deny themselves, as those who engage in worldly pursuits.
Compare these two enterprises. One is certain, eternal, enduring as the life of God; the other is a thing of this life,
changeable, perishable, and if men succeed in their ambitious pursuits, that which they gain frequently stings like an adder, and drowns them in perdition. Oh, why should there be so great a contrast in the efforts of those who are engaged--the one class in a worldly enterprise, the other in a heavenly? the one laboring for a treasure here that is perishable, and in the effort suffering much pain for that which is frequently a source of great evil, the other putting forth efforts for the salvation of precious souls, which will be approved of Heaven and rewarded with heavenly riches. There are no risks to run here, no losses to be sustained, the profits are sure and immense.
Those who are in Christ's stead beseeching souls to be reconciled to God should by precept and example manifest an undying interest to save souls. Their earnestness, perseverance, self-denial, and spirit of sacrifice should as far exceed the diligence and earnestness of those securing earthly gain as the soul is more valuable than the trash of earth and the subject more elevated than earthly enterprises. All worldly enterprises are of trifling importance compared with the work of saving souls. Earthly things are not enduring, although they cost so much. But one soul saved will shine in the kingdom of heaven throughout eternal ages.
Some of the ministers are asleep, and the people are also asleep; but Satan is wide awake. There is but little sacrificing for God or the truth. Ministers must set the example. In their labors they should show that they esteem eternal things of infinite value and earthly things as nothing in comparison. There are ministers preaching present truth who must be converted. Their understanding must be invigorated, their hearts purified, their affections centered in God. They should present the truth in a manner which will arouse the intellect to appreciate its excellence, purity, and sacredness. In order to do this, they should keep before their minds objects which are
elevated and which have a purifying, quickening, and exalting influence upon the mind. They must have the purifying fire of truth burning upon the altar of their hearts, to influence and characterize their lives; then, go where they will, amid darkness and gloom, they will illuminate those in darkness with the light dwelling in them and shining round about them.
Ministers must be imbued with the same spirit as was their Master when He was upon earth. He went about doing good, blessing others with His influence. He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Ministers should have clear conceptions of eternal things and of God's claims upon them; then they can impress others and excite in them a love for contemplating heavenly things.
Ministers should become Bible students. Are the truths which they handle mighty? Then they should seek to handle them skillfully. Their ideas should be clear and strong, and their spirits fervent, or they will weaken the force of the truth which they handle. By tamely presenting the truth, merely repeating the theory without being stirred by it themselves, they can never convert men. If they should live as long as did Noah, their efforts would be without effect. Their love for souls must be intense and their zeal fervent. A listless, unfeeling manner of presenting the truth will never arouse men and women from their deathlike slumber. They must show by their manners, by their acts and words, and by their preaching and praying, that they believe that Christ is at the door. Men and women are in the last hours of probation, and yet are careless and stupid, and ministers have no power to arouse them; they are asleep themselves. Sleeping preachers preaching to a sleeping people!
A great work must be accomplished for ministers in order for them to make the preaching of the truth a success. The word of God should be thoroughly studied. All other reading
is inferior to this. A careful study of the Bible will not necessarily exclude all other reading of a religious nature; but if the word of God is studied prayerfully, all reading which will have a tendency to divert the mind from it will be excluded. If we study the word of God with an interest, and pray to understand it, new beauties will be seen in every line. God will reveal precious truth so clearly that the mind will derive sincere pleasure and have a continual feast as its comforting and sublime truths are unfolded.
Visiting from house to house forms an important part of the minister's labors. He should aim to converse with all the members of the family, whether they profess the truth or not. It is his duty to ascertain the spiritual condition of all; and he should live so near to God that he can counsel, exhort, and reprove, carefully and in wisdom. He should have the grace of God in his own heart and the glory of God constantly in view. All lightness and trifling is positively forbidden in the word of God. His conversation should be in heaven, his words seasoned with grace. All flattery should be put away, for it is Satan's work to flatter. Poor, weak, fallen men generally think enough of themselves and need no help in this direction. Flattering your ministers is out of place. It perverts the mind and does not lead to meekness and humility; yet men and women love to be praised, and it is too frequently the case that ministers love it. Their vanity is gratified by it, but it has proved a curse to many. Reproof is more to be prized than flattery.
Not all who are preaching the truth realize that their testimony and example are deciding the destiny of souls. If they are unfaithful in their mission, and become careless in their work, souls will be lost as the result. If they are self-sacrificing and faithful in the work which the Master has given them to do, they will be instrumental in the salvation of many. Some
permit trifles to divert them from the work. Bad roads, rainy weather, or little matters at home are sufficient excuses for them to leave the work of laboring for souls. And frequently this is done at the most important time in the work. When an interest has been raised and the minds of the people are agitated, the interest is left to die out because the minister chooses a more pleasant and easy field. Those who pursue this course show plainly that they do not have the burden of the work upon them. They wish to be carried by the people. They are not willing to endure the privations and hardships which are ever the lot of a true shepherd.
Some have no experience in taking hold of the work as though it was of vital importance. They do not enter upon it with that zeal and earnestness which would show that they are doing work which will have to bear the test of the judgment. They work too much in their own strength. They do not make God their trust, and therefore errors and imperfections mark all their efforts. They do not give the Lord an opportunity to do anything for them. They do not walk by faith, but by sight. They will go no faster or further than they can see. They do not seem to understand that venturing something for the truth's sake has any part in their religious experience.
Some go from their homes to labor in the gospel field, but do not act as though the truths which they speak were a reality to them. Their actions show that they have not experienced the saving power of the truth themselves. When out of the desk, they appear to have no burden of the truth. They labor sometimes apparently to profit, but more frequently to no profit. Such feel as much entitled to the wages they receive as though they had earned them; notwithstanding their unconsecration has cost more labor, anxiety, and pain of heart to those laborers who have the burden of the work upon them
than all their efforts have done good. Such are not profitable workmen. But they will have to bear this responsibility themselves.
It is often the case that ministers are inclined to visit almost entirely among the churches, devoting their time and strength where their labor will do no good. Frequently the churches are in advance of the ministers who labor among them, and would be in a more prosperous condition if those ministers would keep out of their way and give them an opportunity to work. The effort of such ministers to build up the churches only tears them down. The theory of the truth is presented over and over again, but it is not accompanied by the vitalizing power of God. They manifest a listless indifference; the spirit is contagious, and the churches lose their interest and burden for the salvation of others. Thus by their preaching and example the ministers lull the people to carnal security. If they would leave the churches, go out into new fields, and labor to raise up churches, they would understand their ability and what it costs to bring souls out to take their position upon the truth. And they would then realize how careful they should be that their example and influence might never discourage or weaken those whom it had required so much hard, prayerful labor to convert to the truth. "Let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another."
The churches give of their means to sustain the ministers in their labors. What have they to encourage them in their liberality? Some ministers labor from month to month and accomplish so little that the churches become disheartened; they cannot see that anything is being done to convert souls to the truth nor to make those who are church members more spiritual or fervent in their love to God and His truth. Those who are handling sacred things should be wholly consecrated to the work. They should possess an unselfish interest in it and
a fervent love for perishing souls. If they do not have this they have mistaken their mission and should cease their labor of teaching others, for they do more harm than they can possibly do good. Some ministers display themselves, but do not feed the flock that are perishing for meat in due season.
There is a disposition with some to shrink from opposition. They fear to go into new places because of the darkness and the conflicts they expect to meet. This is cowardice. The people must be met where they are. They need stirring appeals and practical, as well as doctrinal, discourses. Precept backed up by example will have a powerful influence.
A faithful shepherd will not study his own ease and convenience, but will labor for the interest of the sheep. In this great work he will forget self; in his search for the lost sheep he will not realize that he himself is weary, cold, and hungry. He has but one object in view: to save the lost and wandering sheep at whatever expense it may be to himself. His wages will not influence him in his labor nor turn him from his duty. He has received his commission from the Majesty of heaven, and he expects his reward when the work entrusted to him is done.
Those who engage in the business of schoolteaching prepare for the work. They qualify themselves by attending school and interesting their minds in study. They are not allowed to teach children and youth in the sciences unless they are capable of instructing them. Upon applying for a situation as teacher, they have to pass an examination before competent persons. It is an important work to deal with young minds and instruct them correctly in the sciences. But of how much greater importance is the work of the ministry! Yet many engage in the important business of interesting men and women to enter the school of Christ, where they are to learn how they may form characters for heaven, who need to become students themselves. Some who enter the ministry do not feel the burden of the work upon them. They have received incorrect
ideas of the qualifications of a minister. They have thought that it required but little close study in the sciences or in the word of God to make a minister. Some who are teaching present truth are not acquainted with their Bibles. They are so deficient in Bible knowledge that it is difficult for them to quote a text of Scripture correctly from memory. By blundering along in the awkward manner they do, they sin against God. They mangle the scripture, and make the Bible say things that are not written therein.
Some who have all their lives been led by feeling have thought that an education or a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures was of no consequence if they only had the Spirit. But God never sends His Spirit to sanction ignorance. Those who have not knowledge, and who are so situated that it is impossible for them to obtain it, the Lord may, and does, pity and bless, and sometimes condescends to make His strength perfect in their weakness. But He makes it the duty of such to study His word. A lack of knowledge in the sciences is no excuse for a neglect of Bible study; for the words of inspiration are so plain that the unlearned may understand them.
Of all men upon the face of the earth, those who are handling solemn truths for these perilous times should understand their Bibles and become acquainted with the evidences of our faith. Unless they possess a knowledge of the word of life they have no right to undertake to instruct others in the way to life. Ministers should give all diligence to add to their "faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity." Some of our ministers graduate when they have scarcely learned the first principles of the doctrine of Christ. Those who are ambassadors for Christ, who stand in His stead, beseeching souls to be reconciled to
God, should be qualified to present our faith intelligently and be able to give the reasons of their hope with meekness and fear. Said Christ: "Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me."
Ministers who teach unpopular truth will be beset by men who are urged on by Satan and who, like their master, can quote Scripture readily; and shall the servants of God be unequal to the servants of Satan in handling the words of Inspiration? They should, like Christ, meet scripture with scripture. Oh, that those who minister in holy things would awake, and, like the noble Bereans, search the Scriptures daily! Brethren in the ministry, I entreat of you to study the Scriptures with humble prayer for an understanding heart, that you may teach the way of life more perfectly. Your counsel, prayers, and example must be a savor of life unto life, or you are unqualified to point out the way of life to others.
The Master requires all His servants to improve upon the talents He has committed to them. But how much more will He require of those who profess to understand the way to life, and who take upon themselves the responsibility of guiding others therein. The apostle Paul exhorted Timothy: "Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also."
The glorious results that attended the ministry of the chosen disciples of Christ were the effects of bearing about in their bodies the dying of the Lord Jesus. Some of those who testified of Christ were unlearned and ignorant men; but grace and truth reigned in their hearts, inspiring and purifying their lives, and controlling their actions. They were
living representatives of the mind and spirit of Christ. They were living epistles, known and read of all men. They were hated and persecuted by all who would not receive the truth they preached, and who despised the cross of Christ.
Wicked men will not oppose a form of godliness nor reject a popular ministry which presents no cross for them to bear. The natural heart will raise no serious objection to a religion in which there is nothing to make the transgressor of the law tremble or bring to bear upon the heart and conscience the terrible realities of a judgment to come. It is the demonstration of the Spirit and the power of God which raises opposition and leads the natural heart to rebel. The truth that saves the soul must not only come from God; but His Spirit must attend its communication to others, else it falls powerless before opposing influences. Oh, that the truth would fall from the lips of God's servants with such power as to burn its way to the hearts of the people!
Ministers must be endued with power from on high. When the truth in its simplicity and strength, as it is in Jesus, is brought to bear against the spirit of the world, condemning its exciting pleasures and corrupting charms, it will then be plainly seen that there is no concord between Christ and Belial. The natural heart cannot discern the things of the Spirit of God. An unconsecrated minister, presenting the truth in an unimpassioned manner, his own soul unmoved by the truths he speaks to others, will do only harm. Every effort he makes only lowers the standard.
Selfish interest must be swallowed up in deep anxiety for the salvation of souls. Some ministers have labored, not because they dared not do otherwise, not because the woe was upon them, but having in view the wages they were to receive. Said the angel: "Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought? neither do ye kindle fire on Mine altar for nought. I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord
of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand."
It is entirely wrong to buy every errand that is done for the Lord. The treasury of the Lord has been drained by those who have been only an injury to the cause. If ministers give themselves wholly to the work of God, and devote all their energies to building up His cause, they will have no lack. As regards temporal things, they have a better portion than their Lord and better than His chosen disciples whom He sent forth to save perishing man. Our great Exemplar, who was in the brightness of His Father's glory, was despised and rejected of men. Reproach and falsehood followed Him. His chosen disciples were living examples of the life and spirit of their Master. They were honored with stripes and imprisonment; and it was finally their portion to seal their ministry with their blood.
When ministers are so interested in the work that they love it as a part of their existence, then they can say: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For Thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
"The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd
shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away."