I thought I had gotten out of the dream all the benefit that the Lord had in it for me; but when I went to rise and dress myself, God spoke again, saying, "Don't be in a hurry. I want to have a chance to pity you." Then he kept bringing to my mind his goodness in a way that touched the right spot, covered my need, and at last I was permitted to arise and dress. After I was dressed the following words came to me: "He knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are but dust." The dream was still so visible before me. I could still see the father pitying his child, and I felt the strength of that pity in my own soul. It was so real that I comprehended as I never had before in my life, something of the depths of God's pity for his children. Had it been some person dealing with me, he might have said, "Oh, you didn't need to let the cloud come over you. You didn't need to have the blues in this way." But instead of speaking to me in that manner, God just poured out his pity until he chased all the dark clouds away, until his presence filled the vacancy, until he satisfied every longing of my soul.
Dear ones, we have a merciful high priest, who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities, who was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Therefore he is able to succor them that are tempted. Do you not think he will do to trust? Then, let us trust him and not be afraid, though the clouds seem dark and lowering. God will do to trust in the storms and tempests of life the same as when it is calm—only during the storm he will have a better chance to reveal his mercy, his goodness, and his power.
After being with the dear ones in the Kansas City home for nearly a month, I returned to Chicago. Upon my arrival in the city I found that my body was quite run down. Yet God enabled me to do quite active service. No doubt, however, I went at times when, if I had consulted the Lord more carefully, he would have said rest. I was not able to be nearly so active as I had been in the past, and God seemed directing me to take a change, as city-work means constant activity. About a year after my former visit, I again went to Kansas City to visit the work there for a season, remaining there for about three months. I enjoyed the work there very much, although I could take on but little responsibility. God blessed my efforts.
In Kansas City I saw in operation the method of working through the circulating library and cottage-meetings. They had quite a number of the different books printed at The Trumpet office. These are loaned in various parts of the city by the workers from the home, who visit the homes, talk with the readers, take up the books that have already been read, and loan new ones. The reading of the books often opens the way for cottage-meetings, which are held by the workers and young ministers from the home. The holding of these meetings serve two purposes; namely, getting the truth to the people and affording an opportunity to the young ministers and workers to get experience in gospel work.
After being in Kansas City a time, I went to see some old friends at Kingston, Mo. God led us to have two or three services a week for about two weeks. After about two weeks two of the sisters from the missionary home in Kansas City were sent for, and we had a two weeks' meeting.
While I was at Kingston, God in different ways gave me much needed encouragement. One day a sister was giving her adopted daughter some good advice on the subject of marriage. Among other things, the sister told the girl that if she married in God's order she would have some one to love her and care for her in her old age. The enemy took advantage of this to hurl a dart at me, because I was growing old, might soon become helpless, and had no one to sympathize with or care for me. For a time everything seemed dark, as though God had let me see certain things and had then veiled his face from me. I wondered why this was. I meditated: "Well, I have obeyed the Lord, have done what he wanted me to do. He certainly will not forsake me now. If I should live to be old and helpless, he will not let any serious thing come on me, because I have been obedient."
About this time God spoke to my soul, calling my attention to the thirty-seventh Psalm, third and fourth verses: "Trust in the Lord, and do good." Now, this was my part. This is what God required of me—to trust in him and do good. Then came his part: "So shall thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed." His part was to see that I had a place to stay and sufficient food. The scriptures that he brought to my mind at that time have not lost their sweetness and power even to this day.
I can not tell you how precious these special lessons of God have been to me; how they have helped my feet to press the everlasting rock, He is a covenant-keeping God, and his Word is true and forever settled in heaven. Well might the Psalmist say, "I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. He is ever merciful, and lendeth; and his seed is blessed." Never again has the enemy dared to tempt me in this way.
Praise the Lord! Truly he is all that we take him for by faith. "All things are yours." "Ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's." Will he not with him freely give you all things? The Father gave the Son, heaven's best gift, and did he leave out the minor gifts? Nay, verily, he will fulfil every promise to the letter if we meet the conditions. It was Joshua who said, I think, "Not one of these good promises has failed." Neither have any of them failed any of us who put our trust in Him. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but his word will stand secure. "Forever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven."
"Even down to old age, all my people shall prove, My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love; And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn, They'll still like lambs in my bosom be borne."
After being in Kingston one month, we came to Kansas City, remained a short time, made a call some distance out to pray for the sick, and on my return to the city had urgent word to come to Chicago, as my mother was needing my attention. After a short stay in Chicago I went to the camp-meeting at Anderson, Indiana, and enjoyed the feast there. Then I went out in the country near Summitville, Indiana, for a little rest and recreation. I was at Summitville about five weeks and during that time assisted Bro. N. S. Duncan in a series of meetings that God blessed and owned.
Shortly after this I felt led to go to Iowa a few weeks to be what help I could to a dear sister who was going through some deep trials. Her difficulty seemed to be mainly self-accusation. In other words, she had set her spiritual standard so high that she could not live up to her own ideal. Like nearly all people who undergo that difficulty, she was good at heart, but the struggle to get out of her difficulty was severe. God came to her help, gave her victory over her trials, such as she had never been able to have before. She has never been troubled again in the same manner, and she is now firmly established in the way of the Lord.
Some of God's dear little ones who are very conscientious, sometimes look upon the Lord as a severe father. It seems to them that he, like Pharaoh, wants them to make brick without straw, to gather stubble. With this idea of God in mind, they have a hard time and fail to see him as a good, kind, loving heavenly Father, one whose heart is overflowing with mercy and compassion for his dear tried children, ready to make a way for their escape. In fact, if they could but see it, he has already made a way of escape and wants to help them into it just as soon as they will let him. His promises cover the need of every one. If taken and belived, one promise of itself is sufficient. "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able to bear; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."
While the fire is hottest, let us stop and think that this kind Father will not permit the flames to be any severer or the fire any hotter than is most for our good, and that he has a bright design in all that he permits to come upon us. He wants us to hold still, so that he can bring out his design in us. Let us be careful that we do not foil his plans. If we do not, not only will he be pleased, but we also shall be glad that we submitted to him.
I spent five weeks laboring with this sister. Perhaps some will think that a long time to spend on one soul, and even think the time wasted, but did you ever think how great is the value God places upon one soul? "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" According to the Lord's estimate, one soul is worth more than the whole world. Nor do we know how many other souls that one will bring to the Lord—like the one woman at the well to whom Jesus delivered a message and who went and told many others. Let us be faithful, therefore, in helping souls, whether it be one or many.
Caring for my Aged Mother
Provision had now been made for the removal of my mother to the Old People's Home at Anderson, Ind. As there was not sufficient help at the home then to care for her, I took that duty upon myself. As soon as help should come, I was to be free to go and be in meetings what little I was able, except when I needed to care for her, either when she was sick or when they were short of help.
In the days following my coming to Anderson, I went to Sioux Falls, S. Dakota, to visit a sister who was needing some special encouragement. It was mid-winter. Some told me before I started that there was danger of my being snow-bound, and advised me to take plenty of provisions with me; but as I did not anticipate any such difficulty, I did not heed the warning. We got along pretty well until about ten miles from Sioux Falls. The recent heavy snows had so obstructed the way that the engine could not pull through. It would run a little way into the drift, then back up, and again push its way into the drift as far as possible. It kept working its way forward in this manner from one o'clock in the afternoon until very nearly midnight, when we arrived at Sioux Falls.
Sure enough, my provisions did run out on the way; but with the generosity peculiar to most people under like circumstances, the other passengers, although strangers to me, helped me out and supplied all the food needed. Doubtless many of these people knew nothing of real salvation, but their liberal-heartedness proved that sin had not effaced all of the marks of God's love from their hearts.
I remained six weeks at Sioux Falls, during which time I had but little chance to do missionary work other than to encourage the sister whom I went to visit. However, I did go out and put Trumpets in some of the yards and on the porches of neighboring houses. Possibly some of these papers may have proved silent messengers of salvation. Sometimes when the mercury was ten degrees below zero, and the snow deep on the ground, I would go out and walk and distribute Trumpets or tracts. In spite of the cold and snow, I enjoyed my stay. I did what God directed me to do, and I trust that he has blessed my labors. At any rate, the sister whom I went to visit has written me a number of times that she does not know what she would have done had not God sent me at that time to help her through the difficulties she was then encountering. On my return trip I took a severe cold while traveling in a chilly car. My train was late and did not make connections at Chicago. I telephoned out to the Faith Missionary Home, and they gave me an invitation to come and remain over night. I accepted their kindness and was soon in the home where I had spent so many years in the work of the Lord. That evening I made a call on a dear sister that I was anxious to meet, and by the time I got back to the home again I was real sick. I had taken a severe attack of the grip and was suffering greatly. Most of the workers were gone to meetings in different parts of the city, but a sister who had remained at home, laid her hands on me and prayed the prayer of faith. I was able next morning to resume my journey back to the Old People's Home at Anderson.
Although my system had been greatly weakened and rendered more liable to taking cold than it had been before, yet I was well enough so that I soon went about fifteen miles to the little town of Cammack and assisted Sister Maud Smith in a two weeks' meeting. Soon after my return I took a severe attack of pneumonia. Prayer was offered, but the disease seemed to be stubborn. I was anointed, and prayer was again offered, but the battle was still on. So we called in some more of God's ministers and again had prayer. This time God healed me, and next day I was able to go down to dinner. Nevertheless, I remained weak for some days, but soon felt almost entirely restored to health.
In about two weeks, however, I took another attack of pneumonia, one more severe than the first. Again we had a stubborn fight. We prayed three times before any effects were visible. Pleurisy was setting in, and I had begun to spit blood. My temperature had reached 103-3/4 when God gave the witness from heaven that he healed me. I did not get strength nearly so quickly as I did before, and had to keep my bed most of the time for two days. Nevertheless, I never doubted once my healing, and indeed it had been accomplished. I have never suffered from that affliction since.
This is only one of the many times that the Lord has come to my rescue and touched my body. Sometimes I have been healed instantly, and at other times God has given me the witness that I was healed, but my strength returned gradually and it was several days before I could be about as usual. However, the healing came. God was doing the work in his own way, and he always has a purpose and reason for any method he may use. Let us not question the method he uses, but trust him.
Since coming to the Old People's Home I have not been privileged to go out much to help in meetings. This has been partly due to the fact that Mother has needed much care and also to the fact that my strength has not been equal to the exertion. But I have had the privilege of helping in other ways. Very often the old people in the home need prayer for their healing or help and encouragement in their souls. Besides, I have had the privilege of giving help and encouragement to some of the workers in The Trumpet office, and also to others living nearby. I am very thankful for these opportunities.
The Lord has also been helping me to trust him for means to support his cause in the Missionary field and other places. Although I can not give much, yet I appreciate the privilege of giving the little. At first I felt led to purpose forty cents a month. The Lord provided this sum every time. For a year I kept up this purpose and never once had to borrow. The Lord also provided means for me to help his cause in other directions. The next year I felt led to ask God to help me trust him for fifty cents a month for missionary work. I never failed to have my money ready at the proper time. The third year I felt like trusting the Lord for seventy-five cents a month, paying this amount in advance. One consideration that made me reach the decision to pay in advance was that if God should call me before the month was out I should not be in debt. I have never been disappointed. Sometimes the Lord gives me happy surprises in this as well as in other things. If we give God a chance, he will develop our faith to trust him for means as well as for other things, if we are not able to work and earn the money, and have a desire to help his cause. During the present year in which I am writing, I am trusting the Lord for a dollar a month for foreign missionary work, and early in the spring the Lord gave me enough to pay my purpose for the whole year. He made it clear to me that I should use the money for that purpose.
The Lord has helped me also to trust him for my clothing and other needs, and for the needs of my mother. He is such a present help. A number of times I have asked him for money in the morning, and before the sun went down I had all that I asked for. "According to your faith," says the Word, "so be it unto thee." "The desire of the righteous shall be granted."
Some persons have thought that God did not answer prayer for the healing of old people, since they would soon have to die anyway. We know that God will not make them young again, as that is not his plan; but since coming to the Old People's Home I have witnessed the healing of many aged people. In fact, my mother, the oldest inmate of the home, has trusted God for a number of years. The older she gets, the stronger her faith seems to be. Every time these old people are afflicted, the Lord answers prayer. In asking God for healing, they seem childlike, and simple, fully expect God to heal them when they call upon him.
One of the inmates of the home, an old lady in her eighty-seventh year was at the point of death. From appearances one would have supposed that her end was near. She had no hope of recovery. Her burial clothes were made ready. She had been prayed for a number of times, but was still suffering great agony. She did not know what was causing the suffering, but thought it might be appendicitis. Some of us, however, could not be satisfied to let her die without making further effort for her healing, so we sent for Bro. E. E. Byrum. She was again anointed and prayed for. While we were on our knees, God assured my heart that he would hear and answer prayer. Her suffering did not seem to decrease, however, immediately, and in less than an hour Brother Byrum was again called. He came at once, as he had remained in the house. The second time he offered prayer that God would relieve her of her suffering. Although her condition still looked discouraging, yet God made us know that she was going to get well. Although she did not recover very rapidly, yet for one of her age the change was marvelous, and not long afterward she had her usual health. A year or more afterwards she was able to return to Pennsylvania to visit some of her folks. She concluded to remain there and is still living in that State.
One of the aged brothers in the home was greatly afflicted. His mind was giving way somewhat, and he got into a very melancholy condition, thinking that he ought never to leave his room, and especially that he should not be out-of-doors. It could easily be seen that if he continued very long in this condition, he would not only lose his mind but be bedfast and perhaps die. He desired very much to be sanctified and asked several of us to come to his room and pray for him. We went to his room and talked to him on the subject of sanctification, and while he was surrendering all to the Lord, we had him consecrate his will that he would be out-of-doors all that the Lord wanted him to be. He promised he would do so, and the Lord sanctified him. In the two years or more that have passed since then, he has not broken his promise, but has remained in the house only when the weather prevented his being out. As a result, his mind is almost entirely restored, his body is much stronger, and he is not like the same person.
In the four years I have been in the Old People's Home nursing my mother, I have noticed that the older people get the less able they are to comprehend anything new. For this reason it is hard for an old person to grasp the promises of God for salvation; but if they have been saved in their younger years and have lived a consistent Christian before they come to such a great age, they will every year grow more and more like Jesus, trusting him more fully, and seem more humble and thankful as they draw nearer the grave. I have been more strongly impressed than ever before that people should seek God while they are young before they become unable to grasp the promises. I feel the more impressed to sound a warning because there are some in the home with whom we have labored again and again, but who are so aged and infirm that seemingly they can not reach a decision to seek until they find. Their unsaved condition, in view of their extreme age, puts them in a very serious place.
The spiritual workers in The Trumpet Family sometimes take me with them to visit those who need help in the city. One day we went to see a man who was on his death-bed. He had never known God. When we first went into the room, we did not know that he would be able to talk with us much, but we prayed earnestly that God's Spirit would work with him. That was all we could do at that time. Later we went and had prayer with him again, talking to him about his soul, and prayed earnestly that God would spare his life until he could obtain salvation, and that God would keep his mind clear so that he would be able to meet the conditions. We went to see him the third time. In the meantime other workers had been to see him, and he was becoming concerned about his soul. While one of the brethren was praying with him, he grasped the promises that God would save him, and was able to rejoice in the Lord. When I went to see him a little later, he seemed to have complete victory and was very happy.
While thinking of this occurrence at a later time, it seemed to me that I had done nothing toward the brother's salvation, since I was not present at the time he was saved. But the Lord began to talk to my soul: "Paul may plant, and Apollos may water, but God gives the increase. Are you not willing to plant and let some one else water? Are you not willing to be coworkers with others for the Lord?" I saw the point and answered, "Amen, Lord, I am willing; any way to get souls saved."
One day my mother was taken suddenly ill. Her affliction was overflowing of the gall. It seemed that she would strangle to death. She was anointed and prayer was offered; then we sent for the elders and again had prayer, but it seemed that she was dying. A few hours later, thinking she was dying, we sent for some of the elders and a number of us gathered about her bed. The blood seemed to be settling under her skin as though she were mortifying before she died, and the Superintendent, who was standing near the bed, said he was sure he heard the death-rattle in her throat. Even at that time we offered prayer the third time, and all these more pronounced symptoms disappeared and she looked natural once more. She remained quite sick, however, for several days. God had made it clear to one of the brethren that we had offered the prayer of faith and that her life would be spared for a time. She is still living at this time, a marvel of God's divine power.
Exhortation to Workers and Ministers
In conclusion I feel that the Lord would be pleased for me to say a few words for the encouragement of young ministers and workers. In my work in the ministry I have come through many varied experiences that, I trust, will be helpful to you in the trials through which you will have to pass before you get settled in the Lord's work.
The first difficulty met by most young ministers and workers is in regard to their call. Unless the call be clear and definite, they are likely to be in some doubt as to whether or not they are called, and thus be exposed to the temptations of the enemy that God has not called them at all. Sometimes God makes a call so clear that it is beyond question, and the one called has no chance to doubt it for a moment. This was my experience at first; but when I got my mind filled with other plans, instead of keeping in view the past leadings of the Lord, sad to say, I began to doubt my call. But when I began again to seek God's will, everything cleared up, and I felt certain of my call.
Many others have difficulties right on this point. They feel led to do something for the Lord, and undertake to follow the leadings of his Spirit, but they do not feel the presence of God as they expected to feel it, or do not have the liberty that they think they should have. Then comes the temptation, "Has God called me, or am I trying to push out without any calling?" If they are very conscientious, it is easy for them to become confused when confronted with this temptation. They will pray over it and trouble over it. They are very timid and feel afraid to ask older workers lest what they have supposed to be a call is an imagination of their own and they will get a good sharp rebuke. They will struggle along in this condition until it becomes unbearable; then perhaps they will open their hearts to some person in whom they have confidence. If they get the proper instruction, they can soon be lifted out of this dilemma; but if not, they may do as some have done before—get so confused that they will lose the grace of God out of their souls.
My advice would be: If you have any idea that you are called, go to exercising yourself as best you can, whether it be in exhortation, teaching, or testimony, or whatever God brings most clearly to your mind. If you are not sure about your calling, in the meantime be patient and wait on God. Be sure you cast your burden entirely on him and let him bear it for you. If God's hand is on you for service, you will sooner or later be perfectly satisfied as to what he wants you to do; but if it should be otherwise, and you are honest of heart, you will be only too glad to know that you are not called. Thus your mind will be relieved.
If you are exercising yourself in spiritual things and no one is getting any benefit, you should take time to consider well whether God is calling you or not. I verily believe that if God's hand is on any one for service, whether he be a beginner or some one of experience, some will get a blessing when he teaches, exhorts, or delivers a message, because with his Word, God gives the anointing of his Spirit. "But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal" (1 Corinthians 12:7). According to the Word, then, we can safely say that if there is no profit to the hearers in what is being set forth, God's Spirit is not inditing the message.
A young worker who was doubtful about his call, once went to an older brother for advice. This is what he received: "If you feel that God wants you to go out into evangelistic work, go right along, even if you are not sure that God is calling you. Go along, and then if you have success, you will know it is your own efforts and trust in God that has brought success, and not the efforts and faith of another. By following this plan you can easily determine whether or not God's hand is on you for the work."
Now, the method the brother proposed might succeed in some cases all right, but I hardly think it would do in all cases, as all are not led out alike. One of my brothers, when he was first called, felt led to be with me in the work, that God might make me more useful by his presence. He did not comprehend at all that God's hand was on him for service, but later God began to lead him out and to use and bless his efforts. By and by God got him to the point where he could reveal to him his future work. At first my brother hardly knew what to do. He was at a place where he had to fulfil his calling or else grieve God. He chose the former course, and God made him a useful minister, but his development was gradual.
If you begin exercising yourself in the ministry, and God does not bless your efforts, and God's children do not realize that his Spirit is working through you, you would do well to go slowly and to keep submitted to the brethren, lest you should find yourself running ahead of the leadings of the Spirit of the Lord. If God is leading a young worker out for service, he not only will make him feel sooner or later the weight of the call, but will so impress the church that they will know that God is inditing his message.
When you once get it definitely settled that you are called to the ministry, never allow the difficulties and trials of this life so to cloud your vision that you doubt your call. It is one of the tricks of the enemy by trials and discouragement to make the ministers doubt their calling. When your call is once settled, do not go over it again and again to find out whether God is in earnest about it. If you should backslide, of course, then you should wait until God makes clear his will to you again. If a person is not stable in his experience, even though he has had a call to service, that call does not remain so clear and God does not always trust him at once after his recovery from his unsettled state.
Some young workers who feel clear that God has called them to service, try to measure their call by what others think of it. Such a course will bring on confusion. It is all right to be submissive to the brethren, but the Lord wants each of us to get his own bearings. Pray through until you get the mind of God, and at the same time be subordinate to the brethren. If they see it is not best for you to move out rapidly, heed what they tell you.
Be sure to keep your own individuality. If you feel that God has shown you a duty, do it in his fear, in a humble, submissive way. God may be leading you, and yet he may not be making his design very clear to others. There may be many difficulties in your way, such as bashfulness, want of fluent speech, awkwardness of manner, and ignorance. If, however, God has called you, and you keep submissive to him, he will in his own way bring out his design in you. Whatever your hands find to do, do it with your might. One has said, "Instant obedience is the secret of divine guidance."
Some young workers become discouraged if they are not used extensively. You need not conclude, however, that because the Lord does not give you a message often, he does not want to use you at all. Keep submitted and obey God. If God is leading you into evangelistic work, move out. If many souls are saved, be thankful; but if few are saved, still be thankful. Obey God. Do all that he shows you to do, and expect souls to be saved. Pray earnestly that God may convict souls. Pray through until you know that God is going to work with you for the salvation of mankind. Be so true, so humble, and so faithful, and so fill your calling by the help of God, that you can say with Paul, "I magnify mine office."
During my evangelistic labors I have come to places where from a natural standpoint the prospect was so discouraging and the religious confusion of the people so great that, if we could not have interceded with God for help, it would have been useless for us to remain. When we went to God in earnest prayer, however, and plead with him for souls, God never disappointed us. Many times we have had our greatest victories where the prospects seemed especially discouraging.
As we have already said, a definite call is the first essential for a gospel worker; but even with such a call a minister will fail, unless he goes forth filled with the Spirit. You may have a call, you may really be sent by the Lord; but unless you keep filied with the Spirit, your labors will soon cease to bring results. Do not try to imitate the manner and methods of others, but keep yourself so submitted to God and so pliable in his hands that he can have his way with you, even as the potter does with the clay.
Let God mold and fashion you into a vessel after his own design.
Again, do not neglect to search the Scriptures. Under the illumination of the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures will prove a mine of wealth to you. Education is all right in its place; but when you lean upon it as a means of understanding the Scriptures, or when you depend upon it for unction and liberty and for ability to teach, preach, or exhort, you will make a sad failure. You will disappoint yourself, the people, and God.
Do not question your calling because you have a poor education. Make good use of your present opportunities. Read good books. Get all the help and information you can in regard to soul-saving, but be careful you do not lean on your education for soul-unction. Many a time the Lord has called my attention to this thought before I rose to address an audience. Again and again he has reminded me to be sure not to depend upon myself, but to lean always on him, to drink in of his Spirit, so that I might give out to others. Human speech fails me in trying to bring out the importance of this thought. I trust that God will interpret my thought to your heart in a more forceful manner than words will allow.
Thus far I have been speaking mainly to young workers in the early part of their ministry. Now I wish to say a few words that will be helpful to them as they grow older in the service. If you are fully persuaded that God has chosen you as his mouthpiece to declare the everlasting gospel to eternity-bound souls, you should feel the weight of your responsibility. A very weighty responsibility rests upon him who stands between the living and the dead. The attitude a minister holds, both toward his call also toward the Word of God, and also toward the people, is of vital importance. No better instruction to ministers has ever been given than that which Paul gave to Timothy: "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 long-suffering, 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" (2 Timothy 4:1-3).
The admonition to preach the word implies that what goes forth from the pulpit should be in harmony with the Scriptures, backed up by the Spirit of God. Do not give the people theories nor illustrate your speech by fabulous stories. Do not dwell too much with the surface problems of Christianity, but spend more time in leading the people to a deep heart-experience. If they get the inner man right its beauty will shine out through their entire being. In short, speak to the people the oracles of God, so that if they are at all susceptible to the truth, your speech will appeal to them as the Word of God spoken through your lips of clay.
In preaching, guard against relating many touching incidents merely to work up the human sympathy. We have to deal with the hearts of men as well as with their minds and judgments. Any one that has a love for God's pure word will find in it a force and power that will have a good effect when it is presented in simple and plain language under the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
In preaching on some subjects, it is necessary to have a large number of texts, but ministers make a mistake who think that they must make every sermon a Bible-reading. The use of too many scriptures confuses the listeners; it is often better to concentrate the attention of the hearers on one text until its full meaning is mastered. At the proper time Bible-lessons are in order, but the admonition, "Preach the word," does not mean that you are to read a large number of scriptures, but merely that you should present the Word of God as paramount to everything else. The ministry of Babylon have fed their people with much worldliness mixed together with a small portion of the Word of God. For this reason God's people scattered in Babylon have not fared well. At meeting their intellects would be fed, but their souls would be starved.
You can not, however, feed others until your own soul is fed. This is done by searching the Scriptures and by praying much. If it is laid upon any one more than another to search the Scriptures, it is laid upon God's ministry, whom he has set apart to teach his Word and to feed his people. It is good to read God's Word slowly and carefully, to meditate upon it, to read it in different ways, by course, by subject. After reading a small portion, take time to dwell upon it, to pray over it, until it has become your own, not only as a possession of your mind, but also as a soul-experience.
If you depend thus upon the Spirit of the Lord, he will give you new messages for the people. God gives his ministers many things that are good to repeat again and again, especially to different audiences; but a repetition of old thoughts many times in the same congregation is too much like serving warmed-over food. It lacks appetizing qualities. Something fresh from the Spirit of the Lord will make the people hungry to hear more of the word, and will make the word charming to their souls. When the minister gets a message direct from the Spirit, then presents it under the anointing of the Spirit, it will have beauty, sweetness, and a freshness that no power of mere human words, no trick of oratory, nor beauty of illustration, can give. If you will bear this in mind and drink of the Spirit before you come before your congregation, give the Lord a chance to use you as an avenue through which to speak, you will be a success in your calling.
To be a New Testament minister, you must be able to exhibit at least some of the gifts of the Spirit.
These are yours by right of your calling. Paul says, "But rather that ye should prophesy." Without this special insight into the Scriptures and power to present them to others, you will not be able to fulfil your calling as a mouthpiece of the Spirit.
Before laying special stress on the gifts, however, you would do well to see that you are filled with the Spirit. Remember that the gifts are as the fruits and the Spirit as the tree. One who has not the Spirit can not bear the fruit. Do not try to substitute the gifts of the Spirit for spirituality. Covet earnestly the best gifts. Nevertheless, you should be careful that you do not try by your own human efforts to obtain the gifts, instead of earnestly seeking the Lord for their bestowal. By undue human efforts, many have obtained the manifestation of a false spirit, which they have placed on exhibition as the genuine.
Paul said to Timothy, "Be instant in season." To do this you must keep close in touch with the Lord and let him be your wisdom, yea, your all. Paul said further, "Be instant out of season." This expression has been puzzling to many young ministers. If you will watch to do good and to lift up Christ at every possible opportunity, your chance for doing good will increase. Sometimes there will seem to be no opportunity, no open door; then you must open the door yourself. Go in and do what you can for souls. Sometimes what you do will seem altogether out of season. Later, however, you may see that God's blessing was upon your labors and that some soul has received a benefit.
"Reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine." In order to be able to do this according to the Word of God, you will have to live a life above reproach, or your rebukes and reproofs will come back upon your own head, when rebuking and reproving, long-suffering is very needful. As a rule, people will not take the truth all at once. Paul said to Timothy in another place, "Consider what I say, and the Lord give thee understanding in all things." With what carefulness a minister must speak when he comes in contact with those who have not yet fallen in love with the truth. One word spoken unwisely may forever shut the door of salvation for some eternity-bound soul.
The last word in this admonition should not be forgotten: "with all long-suffering and doctrine." Doctrine has a very important place. Mistakes have been made in preaching the Word. Sometimes it is all doctrine and no experience; sometimes it is all experience and no doctrine.
Paul said to Titus, "But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine." And to Timothy: "Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.... 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." Paul's words seem to show that the doctrines of the New Testament are of vital importance. For example, we should understand the doctrine of repentance and justification, of sanctification, of divine healing, of the one body, and of every other subject connected with our eternal interest. If a minister keeps the church well grounded in the doctrine of the New Testament, he will in a large measure forestall the possibility of their being seduced by false spirits and of giving place to doctrines of devils.
But to know the doctrine means more than to gain a mental knowledge of it. No minister is properly equipped to teach justification or sanctification until he has an actual heart-experience. As the minister presents the truth on these doctrines, the Spirit of the Lord should bear definite witness to his possession of these graces, so that he can present the truth definitely from an experimental standpoint. Then he will not say, "I think it is so and so," or "I guess it is this way or that," but he can speak with authority.
"Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught that he may be able by sound doctrine, both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers" (Titus 1:9). God's Word on any point, illuminated by the Spirit, brings out sound doctrine. It is certain that we can not improve on the Word. We may give illustrations which are good in their place, but these can not improve on the Word. We may give illustrations which are good in their place, but these [words missing] of God's Spirit, knowing that we have the experience in ourselves, God can so impress our teachings upon our hearers that it will be difficult to ever get them mixed up in doctrine.
"Sound speech, that can not be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you" (Titus 2:8). Our speech in the pulpit should be of such a nature that it will appeal to the hearers. Foolishness, lightness, jesting, indulged in by the minister while preaching the everlasting gospel, is entirely out of place. Nor does this admonition apply entirely to the pulpit, but at all times, under all circumstances, a minister should be an example to the flock. Only thus can we ministers expect to obey God and fulfil our calling and accomplish God's will in the salvation of the world.
Those who are young in the ministry should not get discouraged because they have not fully comprehended and practised the different things herein set forth. The older ministers should encourage the young to do all they know of God's will and to trust him to make his will plainer and clearer. Young minister, you should encourage yourself. You should be patient under the molding and fashioning hand of God, trusting him so to fasten these truths upon your heart and mind that it will be as natural to practise them as it is to breathe. If we as ministers are humble enough, God can get to the people through us what he wants the people to hear. If we would but be patient under God's controlling power and let him work out in us his own good pleasure, we should have less trouble and there would be fewer mistakes to be cleared up. Our lives should be living epistles, known and read of all men, so that when the world reads our lives, they will read the Bible.
It is very essential to the welfare of the minister as well as to the welfare of the church that the ministers treat each other with special courtesy and consideration. The mere act of a young minister in taking an easy seat and leaving some older brother or sister in the ministry to sit in an uncomfortable place, and other similar acts of discourtesy, will have a bad effect upon the congregation. Many times young ministers hold an irreverent attitude toward older ones. They should consider them as their seniors and as fathers in the gospel. Older ministers, too, should act as fathers in the gospel and show all consideration and kindness when giving advice and admonition to the younger brethren. Before approaching a younger worker to admonish or instruct him, you who are older in the gospel work, should wait carefully before God in prayer for what to say. You should call to mind the testings, trials, and experiences of your younger days in the ministry. If you keep these fully in mind and speak to the young ministers as you would have wished some one to speak to you in your early days, you can save your younger brethren in the ministry many heartaches and trials. If approached in this way, they are much more likely to heed your warnings and your advice.
Young people are apt to think that if a road appears fair before them it is safe to travel. Sometimes in the path that seems so open to you, the older ones see pitfalls and dangers. If you will but be cautioned by those who are more experienced, you will be saved many trials and heartaches. Again, young ministers are sometimes very timid and do not exercise themselves in spiritual things as they should, especially in the presence of their elders. When this occurs, both the older and younger ministers should do all they can to remedy the trouble. The older ministers should encourage the younger to do their duty, and the younger should lean on God for the help they need, and should move out, even when they have to go with fear and trembling.
Dear young fellow worker, if you want to make a success of your calling, keep close to the Savior; keep in touch with him at all times. Do not let your mind drift away on things that are not for your good. Let your meditation be such that your soul will be stored with truths that will be helpful to give out to others.
The subject of our thoughts has much to do with our speech and determines whether our words will be wholesome to present to the people. The apostle gives very definite instructions on this point. "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things" (Philemon 4:8). Let your mind dwell upon God, upon his plan, upon his goodness and his mercy, then the Lord will have a chance to impress these things upon your soul more clearly than they can be impressed in any other manner.
With your meditation, combine secret prayer. As you meditate, talk with God and let God talk with you. To have a good conversation with a friend, you must not do all the talking, but must give your friend an opportunity to talk also. Likewise, when you are talking with God, give him a chance to reveal precious thoughts to your soul. Give him a chance to fill your inner being with heaven's sweetness. If God fills your heart with the riches of heaven, then you can give out that richness and blessing to others; then you can be the means of arousing in your hearers a hungering for the good things of God, and they will come again to hear the Word of the Lord.
Now, as I bring to a close this brief sketch of my life history, I realize that, like this story, my active work in the ministry is near its close. Although my body is well spent and the weight of years is somewhat heavy upon me, yet the divine fire still glows on the altar of my heart, and my interest in gospel work is not diminished. In the few years that may still remain to me of my earthly pilgrimage, I shall take a lively interest in those young brothers and sisters whom God has called to take the places of us who are being compelled to retire from active service.
I shall watch with interest the work of the ministry, not only as individuals but as a body. I shall hope and pray that you who are now stepping into the ranks as workers for the Lord will avoid many mistakes that we older ministers have made. If this little volume points out any pitfalls that should be avoided or any pleasant paths that your feet may walk in with safety; if it encourages you to trust the Lord more fully for all things and inspire you to place yourself more fully in his hands for service, it will have accomplished the purpose of the author.
Our salvation was purchased by the suffering and death of Christ. The salvation of the world will be brought about only through our suffering and soul-travail. "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy." "As soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children." "He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him."
Remember that without trials you can not have triumphs. Paul says something about enduring hardness like good soldiers, thus recognizing the fact that hardness is the portion of a good soldier. If you are a worthy minister, you are sure to endure hardness, buffeting, persecution, and perils by false brethren; but, thank God, through all these you can be more than conqueror, and look forward to the final reward. Paul says, "I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us."
THE REFINER'S FIRE
He sat by a fire of seven-fold heat, As he watched by the precious ore, And closer He bent with a searching gaze As he heated it more and more.
He knew he had ore that could stand the test, And he wanted the finest gold To mold as a crown for the King to wear, Set with gems with a price untold.
So he laid our gold in the burning fire, Though we fain would have said him "Nay," And he watched the dross that we had not seen, And it melted and passed away.
And the gold grew brighter and yet more bright, But our eyes were so dim with tears, We saw but the fire, not the Master's hand, And questioned with anxious fears.
Yet our gold shone out with a richer glow, As it mirrored a Form above, That bent o'er the fire, though unseen by us, With a look of ineffable love.
Can we think that it pleases His loving heart To cause us a moment's pain? Ah, no! but He saw through the present cross The bliss of eternal gain.
So He waited there with a watchful eye, With a love that is strong and sure, And His gold did not suffer a whit more heat