Paths To Power - Power For Ministry
( Originally Published 1905 )
"Rise and stand upon thy feet; for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister." Acts xxvi. 16.
IT is a fortunate moment for us to be in at this trial. It is instructive to see Paul now, if it is our first and last chance, especially if we are Christians who desire to find out what is the true method of making a minister and the Divine way of endowing a man for this work. Paul's career is nearly ended; the harvest of the noble enterprise is a fact in evidence. The man has passed by all immaturities and partial views that might have clouded or otherwise vitiated his conclusions. He knows what he thinks; years have kindly remanded to forgetfulness the valueless and unimportant events of a lifetime; his perspective is now made right by his nearness to God's City of Rest. What shall we learn from his experience and words of the significance and function of the Christian ministry?
He is telling us that the Christian ministry has its power and hope of making this a better world and thus serving God and man, by helping toward an erect manhood a manhood which is erect because it has genuinely confessed the Lordship of Jesus Christ and then has been uplifted and inspired by the vision of Jesus Christ as the revelation of God and the revelation of man.
This view of the ministry has great force in this day. We know that the world of men has always been crying out of its divinely imbreathed destiny for that leadership which shall inspire and cultivate a stalwart and self-respectful manhood. Our ministerial conscience is awake to the fact that we have often been weak, because we have failed to obtain the primary and fundamental energies indispensable for success in our work.
Much of our effort at preaching is ineffective it cannot even be said to stir with promise of life because this Saul, before or when he stood on the verge of becoming Paul, has never felt his lips moving with even the questioning cry, "Who art Thou, Lord?" The emphasis of Saul's nature is on the word "Lord " he is surer of his belief than he is of his doubt, "Who art Thou?" Never was a Saul, however brilliant and honest in his cruel zeal, lifted upon his feet and reconstituted into a Paul, the powerful preacher, if he missed the experience of this confession. On the other hand, when this experience comes to any Saul, it rules by forming itself at the centers of his thought and feeling and by uttering itself resistlessly upon his lips by divine logic and by impulse inevitable. It involves the Lordship of Jesus Christ over the whole man. "Who art Thou?" Let him be uncertain as to a thousand other points yea, let him be only an inquirer as to all other belongings and qualities of Jesus of Galilee yet there must tingle in every drop of his blood the omnipotent conviction that lies in that word, "Lord." The true minister is the true minstrel of the human soul the words minstrel and minister have a common root. He organizes the vagrant and apparently opposing sounds, the devious wafts of melody and the split and recalcitrant currents of tone, about a common and regnant center in the soul. That center is the all-supreme and embracing theme. It commands the whole character. It alone co-ordinates and compels each aimless shiver of a chord and each stubbornly isolating tonic energy into harmony. Its power is the power of music, hushing discord by completing it, or by rescuing it into concord. Its energy is the energy of harmony coercing to order, not by mechanical strength, but by inherent beauty and truth; expanding half-tones or allying them to wedded loveliness of utterance, by the might, not of external volume or intensity, but by internal and perfect sweetness. Such is Jesus, and such is His Lordship the master soul and master theme, first, of the spirit and heart of the preacher, and then, the all-mastering and transforming master-soul and master-theme in the world of men, to whom he speaks.
The whole enterprise of ministering involves this faith. The human heart, mind, life, go searching for a Lord yea, for the Lord not primarily for an abstract philosophy, not for a radiant ideal, not even for a noble memory or for a deathless hope. For all of these it cries, and it expects these, in its living Lord, divine and human, near enough to touch, lofty enough to command. It throngs our churches, until it is sure the preacher has not heard or seen Him and then it sadly stays away. It besieges the altars of the faith which has awakened its pristine and fundamental desires, and, never so constantly as to-day, it hangs about, lingering yet in hope, asking for a sovereign, a living sovereign whom no death may vanquish or change; and, be sure of it, my brothers, the heart of humanity will never give up the church and the preacher, until, either by its fears or by the facts, it is compelled to say, "They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him."
Believe it, my friends, the race's opposition to Jesus Christ Himself, whatever may be its present antagonism to our cheap sensationalism or to our cold ceremonialism, is marshaled behind a wall as thin as was that which divided Saul, the persecutor, with his hands of blood, from Jesus his Lord, with His hands of blessing. Nothing else will satisfy the demands of man which are feeling through, except the Lordly Christ before whose majesty of moral lovableness the wall goes trembling down. The effective minister has experienced all this; he can get it in no other way. His experience of it makes his appeal the utterance of a personal affair, warm as his blood, and as full of reality as he himself. I repeat it the moral Lordship, the spiritual supremacy by which Christ chose to be supreme over men, comes only by experiencing it. I cannot unwind the faultless argument for Christ's kingly nature and His consequent right to rule me, or His power to get hold of me, that He may rule me. It came into Saul's mind at that unique and sudden moment. I have no doubt that argument is as straight and strong as a cable between earth and heaven. It was not merely an appeal to Saul's head, but, having just been touched by the death of Stephen, and having braced himself by terrible volition in vain against the Unseen Will, it was an affair of the heart and the will. His intellect alone might question, but his total self confessed the majesty. At once it carried into him the conviction that the reality he confronted commanded him so completely, flung over him the spell of such an undeniable sovereignty, that, however much he might have to say, "Who art Thou? Who art Thou?" he must also say, "Who art Thou, Lord?" Here was what no teacher of earth could teach him. No merely theological teaching can ever impart that conviction. That is a religious experience. Men still call Jesus Lord, only by the might of the Holy Spirit within them. Saul of Tarsus was convinced by a logic swift as lightning, but entirely personal. Premises and conclusions followed one another by the speed of God rushing in upon him. Here began his deep and thorough preparation for the ministry. It began not in the process of reasoning, not in the advent of a theory in that event came and remained his theological position. It placed him. He did not place it. Christ had taken him, as the sovereign harmony takes the wandering tone. He was apprehended, as he afterwards said, that he might apprehend. So completely had Christ won him that he said "Lord" with all the loyalty of his nature. Truth is personal. Every great truth comes in this way. Its way of coming fixes it in the life-tissue. He never would have to defend the proposition that Jesus is Lord, after that. The fact is that Christ had divinely Lorded it over him. Do we defend that proposition? Do we doubt that men can or will believe in the Lordship of Christ? Do we spin our thread of logic and argument to convince at length? Brothers, it is so only because Paul's experience is not our experience. No preacher ever convinced a man that Jesus is Lord; only Jesus Himself can do that. Christ is His own argument for Himself it is too great for you and me to manipulate. No preacher ever had evangelic power who did not know that Christ is Lord by the indubitable fact that He actually has taken his soul by moral majesty. Christ has so ruled at the center of his life that while he questions "Who art Thou?" as to a thousand other things, he says in deepest, unconscious confession, "Who art Thou, Lord?" Whatever else Christ is, He is Lord. The man has at last found his Master and at the heights because at the depths of his life.
Ah, do you say, what then is the business of the church, if the church is not to see to it that men do acknowledge the power and right of Jesus to rule men, not at the point of the sword, but at the more stinging point of a condemnation as a heretic? Hear ye Him as He says, "Peter, put up thy sword into its sheath"; "Let us leave My true kingliness to rule from its own throne." He seems to say, "If moral Lordship does not command, it is neither moral or Lordly. Let me have My cross, instead of the legions who might protect Me. Let men see Me die and live there, and there will I draw all men unto Me." This was His own trust in His spiritual royalty. So did His divinity trust itself. So let the church and pulpit trust Him. We need only to manifest Him as so much the Lord over us personally that we have become Christlike, and then the pulpit and the church will hear thousands crying out on the Damascus road, "Who art Thou, Lord?"
Now, it is this Lord who says, "Rise, stand upon thy feet." It seems strange at first that it is the same power Jesus who both humbles and exalts. But Jesus were not the soul's true Christ, if it had been otherwise. His Lord had other uses for Saul, now that he had confessed Jesus' Lordship, than to leave him there flat and uneffective upon this disordered and needy planet. It is of the first importance to realize the fact that He only is the power which commands our admiration with our humility only that which we adore can lift us up. "We live by admiration." We are made erect and manly by adoration. Before a merely beautiful character, a profound moralist, a true philosopher, a heroic martyr, we do not fall to earth in obedience, neither do we rise to our full height at his command. The very human Charles Lamb confessed that if Socrates were to enter our room we would take off our hats to him and admire; if Jesus Christ were to enter we would fall on our knees and adore. That power which endows the minister of men must be divine enough to make our unhelped humanity lie full length upon the common earth which is our fate and home without that power; and yet that power must be divine enough on the other side, to lift man into communion with God, and place him permanently on his feet before the problem of life.
Secondly, the moment Saul is swept into the march of God's energies by the insistent moral energy of Christ, the very power whom Saul calls Lord must lift him up for the holy ministry which that vision inspires. God's economics demand this of God's power; it must put the worshiper on his feet and make him its missioner.
We will never deny that the services, which have been wrought by men prone upon earth in adoration and prayer, have been very great and valuable unto God and man. There, truly, is found the right to rise and to labor, and there alone is born the power to hear the voice saying, "Stand upon thy feet." Angels bow when most angelic; men refuse to bow when least they are men. Some of the cables to which captains and law-givers, saints and prophets, psalmists and reformers have hitched their otherwise motionless trains of hope when these souls were prostrate before the Divine Glory, are supremely strong. But the ministry of Christ only begins to be powerful there. Right there other truths are matched with the truths which we find there. These other truths are side by side in importance with the energies felt and adopted there. They are really the completing and enriching powers for those which we know there. They are the sovereign inspirations and forces that promise and guarantee the vaster achievements of righteousness on earth and the deeper joy of heaven. But they are for man, only when a man honors his own conscience and hope, and lifts his head as God's son above the earth and into the free air of heaven. He must be on his feet to wield them.
Christ the power of God in humanity before whose spiritual sovereignty every Saul must bow He alone has the voice, the speech, the right to say, "Rise, stand upon thy feet." The hope for an erect, self respectful, lofty souled ministry lies in what Jesus is and does for humanity. It is our business to get Him to humanity or humanity to Him. He alone can fairly say to Saul, "Rise, stand upon thy feet, for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister."
Ours, like Saul's age, has been an age of self conceit and self abasement. Pompousness has lived with pessimism and kept open house. Intellectual arrogance and groveling discontent have mated. Man has been crying out "I am nothing!" and next moment he has asserted "I am the whole thing." One hour has found an extemporaneous philosopher aver-ring "Man is the only God," and then shouting "God is less than man." Man has been self-depreciative largely because of the recoil consequent upon his pretenses; his confessedly abject position has often been the result of his earlier audacity. He becomes misanthropic because of the collapse of his impious egotism. From whatever cause, he has been lying flat upon the earth, and often has he reveled in what Carlyle called "a dirt philosophy." Not as Saul of Tarsus .has man, in the latest century, been humbled by the spiritual glory of Christ, but he lies on the earth nevertheless. He is cursed by the sin from which he alone cannot free himself. He is also half hopeless of a valid solution for the problem of life as it appears in himself or in his race. Brothers, do not fail to recognize the fact of sin as the most rest-less of all the influences which has caused, and still causes, hopelessness. Sin is only practical faithlessness. Our age's philosophy does not extinguish or even hide it. We are enough like Saul to behold in humiliation its disaster and we see it more clearly as it writhes or slidders darkly against the background of a better day, for ours is the most luminously Christian age the world has ever seen. We are not only prostrate on the earth, but we are tired of it. The mind of man is not more weary of the speculative material-ism which has long since failed as a dogma, than the heart and conscience of men are in revolt against a practical materialism which is constantly failing as a method of life. Hucksters of our day are advertising enough religious nostrums to demonstrate what a market there is for something to reinspire the soul of man in this panic.
Here the Christian minister finds himself and his message. Who is he? What is his message? How does it appeal to men?
First of all, he is personally an erect and inspired man. How has he been made so? He has felt, in a moment, unspeakably precious and grand, the actual Lordship of Jesus of Galilee. He has had a vision but more, that vision makes him a man of vision. He has not been persuaded of it by formal logic. He has known it, yielded to it, gone into partnership with it as a fact in his experience. The triumphant Christ has entered his life and thinking and hope, by Christ's triumphing over him, and not otherwise. He was going to some Damascus a persecutor of that which seemed to die on Calvary; he has entered Damascus its disciple and champion. The very power which he antagonized in vain has first humbled him; then it lifted him upon his feet. He first adored it when he suddenly discovered its splendor in absolute command of his soul. But obeisance, however abject, submissive, and humble, was not enough for him who saw, as he did, the living Christ. He has felt the fortunate contagion of the aggressive spiritual power of Jesus. He must get on his feet. He does get on his feet. The gravitations that held him fast to earth, either because of his unworthiness, or because of the contrasting glory of Jesus, have been caught up, through a larger, higher circle of law, by the other gravitations that pull him upward. The spiritual tallness he gained even by his humility has now straightened itself in the light of God, in the hope of God for man that Jesus carries with Him. The significant fact is that he has fallen in love with God as Christ has revealed Him; he has also accepted the ideal and reality of man as Christ has revealed man also, and, on that ground, his sin has fallen dead, sloughed away, been forgotten by God and by man. He is a new man in Christ. Can we marvel that he is now an erect, hopeful, aggressive, stalwart man? What else could he be, under the spell of such an uplifting force? Would it not be strange if he were not on his feet?
I have little hope of valuable service to men from any so-called ministry to which all this is not intensely personal. Let us note how personal it all is with Saul, who is being transformed into Paul. He asks, with an incomplete theology, it is true, but with vivid eagerness, "Who art Thou, Lord?" and the answer is as personal as the "who" and "thou" of his query, "I am Jesus, whom thou (Saul) persecutest." Every disguise is torn away. Religious experience under Christ emphasizes "I, " "Jesus," and "thou." It is unflinchingly accurate, and searchingly true. Ugly facts also emerge, sinister and illumined. There can be no mistake. "I am Jesus" not vague goodness, not your individual ideal of truth, but God's own purpose incarnate, the very heart-throb of this whole system of things "I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest." "Wrong is an attack on Me; sin is a stab in My soul," so Jesus seems to say does say. All this enforces the personal element in the fundamental experience of the man who is to be a minister. It is the seal of a divine prerogative. He is to help men get upon their feet. Nothing of this sort is possible unless he is intense in the sense of his own recovered personality, unless, by his own right to reverence and to make his own self and life distinct, he can clear away all circumstances and abolish all trivialities from every other man and bring that man personally close up to the loving heart of the personal Christ. Each man must be thus made distinct before God. Then he gets a distinctness for himself; circumstances no longer are called upon to explain him or defend him from his true self. Jesus erect amidst depravity and doubt; His minister stalwart and full of faith also these are the facts that make distinct and sacred every man's soul and life. Then will each man respect himself as God deals with him by His providence and grace. This is the true call to the ministry. But Jesus makes it yet more personal. Hear His voice again, "I have appeared unto thee." "I" and "thee" these are the great words of the Good News unto men; and these are the two supreme facts in all thorough-going religion. Not the creed, not the church, and not society in general, nor even the noble fortune of race but "I" and "thee." Christ never had a real minister who was not made self-respectful and powerful because he was thus led to honor his own personality and to lead every other man to honor his, as God Himself honored it. O man, if thou wouldst be a minister, "rise, stand upon thy feet." Fear not to be personal, for impersonalness is cloud land, weakness, and death.
An erect humanity in the pulpit, speaking to the humanity that honors it, trusts it, and provides support for it how sublime it all is!
Secondly, what is his message? His message is really the wine pressed from grapes grown on the soil of this experience. A hopeful presumption works in him. Yes, he has the right to believe that what has lifted him and set him upon his feet will exalt and make stalwart other men. In truth, whatever else we may carry, this only is each minister's working faith. If Jesus has truly become Saul's Lord, and lifted Saul up to his full manhood, that, and that only, will Paul expect and work for in other men. By no magic or miracle can you get out of your minister what he has not to give.
Experience, which is so personal and particular, which is to be crystallized into his message, makes the erect man not less, but more conscious of the facts of sorrow and sin in the world. They lie heavy on the heart of our time, and often they conduce to a conclusion of despair. The true man cannot be erect and have an outlook of hope, unless he appreciates the maddening riddle of life in its most involved snarl. I think every true minister must have in him the making of a pessimist as gloomy as Schopenhauer, and he must know enough of the tragedy of life to shake the courage of a Leibnitz. But this must not be his all. He must have been on the dull earth, and felt its sick heart beat woe; he must also have been lifted up, conscious of it all, but equally conscious that the very Christ who lifts him up and restores his faith was no stranger to its real tragedy. No, rather was Christ so much more conscious of it all, that it brake His heart. It crowned Him with thorns when He flung upon its night the first promise of a golden day. This is the only way God has of making Paul the minister. God's manifestation of Himself in our humanity is the uplifting fact in a world where, with out Him man is on all fours in his animalism, or flat upon the earth earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust in his despair. If our ministry is Christian, it surpasses the keenest eyed pessimism in perceiving the historical fact that "in Adam all die." But if it is Christian, it surpasses philosophic optimism by its discovery of an outlook through the fact that "in Christ all are made alive." Universal as was, and is, the disaster in Eden, so universal was and is the recovery at Calvary. The minister, of all men, is the one who can be erect and free because he is true to both these facts. He knows that it is a groaning creation, but he knows also that it is loaded with divine destinies. He is aware that his is a race strained in ignorance and toil, often whelmed in anguish and defeat! But against that fact he puts this fact the Son of Man, the very fact whose luminousness lays bare this dolorous reality. Jesus Christ has lived to the bottom of its woe, felt in His own heart its blind cruelty, and, after being the victim of its calculating malice and dull-eyed villainy, this same Jesus emerges as the most hopeful and the most powerful of leaders. He who was gibbeted by man, comes assuring us, for He is carrying the fortunes of redeemed humanity in His wounded hands. Surely, He can say, "Rise, stand upon thy feet." Surely, His minister must believe in man.
And this is the central flame that lights and warms the heart of the preacher. Jesus believed in man, because He believed in God. He revealed man in revealing God. No one ever so depended upon God to reinforce man at his best. No one ever so trusted in man at his worst. He would not even save Him-self at Calvary from man's fury. "He knew what was in man." He would rather trust man to come again to Calvary, age after age, to find if one drop of His blood still quivered there. But His trust in man was fundamentally a trust in God, His Father and man's Father. Jesus knew in Himself what God the Father meant for man. He Himself was that meaning. Human worth, the right and duty of a man to respect himself, the joy a man ought to find in his privilege of being a man all these had their source in the fact that Jesus felt in Himself that the concerns of God and man are one. He illustrated the capacity of humanity to receive God and the willingness of God Himself to come into man and abide with him. In the manger at Christmas, humanity was proven capable of the Incarnation. Other events came in due order. That stable-event glorifies man; Calvary reconciles man to His Father; Easter rebuilds man; Olivet demonstrates his heavenly origin and destiny.
This is the meliorism which must be Christ's gift to the man who is his minister. It is far from that pessimism which says that the world is as bad as it can be. It is as far from that optimism which says that the world is as good as it can be. It is meliorism, as it has been wisely called, and its assurance is in Jesus Christ, when it says that this is not the worst possible world, nor is this the best possible world, but, by the certain victory of Jesus, it shall be the best possible world. It is not best or worst, but it is a better world and must grow better all the while. People ask, "Are you, then, an optimist?" or "are you, then, a pessimist?" I refuse the classification for the true minister. I work hopefully.
O how this hope kindles in us, when we see Jesus dealing with the perplexing problems of evil. To Him, the problem is not speculative, but practical. Witness Gethsemane and the heights of Golgotha. There can be nothing but a deeper discontent and a more bitter cynicism in our bewildered world, if, when we look on the moral beauty of Jesus Himself, we fail to see that its very beautifulness, its sovereign power, lies in the fact that He is not thus divine for His own sake. A taint of self would undivinize even Him. He is "the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world." He worked His divinity for all there was in it in His struggle with the undivine. He bore the whole cost of sin. Let no preacher pass over the awful ransom He paid. The pulpit which fails here, may succeed in being an arsenal of brilliant rhetoric and a fortress of valuable learning, but as a pulpit it is a pitiful sham and a wicked deceit. It will leave man prone on his face, without the vision Saul had of the real Christ. The Christ whom Saul saw, the Jesus who spoke to Saul, had been no connoisseur of morals or ingenious exponent of a new cult which gathered about Him a unanimous coterie of dilettantes. No. His face was more marred than any of the sons of man. He had met sin fatally at Calvary, as before He had met sin and wrestled with evil in Peter and Judas and Mary Magdalene. He was Lord only because He had triumphed over sin and iniquity. He had won the heart of man just at the moment when the sin which is man's death apparently had its carnival in His crucifixion.
True and almost pathetic is the cry of the race's heart for a self respecting ministry a ministry whose erect mental and spiritual manhood will lift a discouraged yet proud mob of human beings upon their feet, and organize them into the city of God. Man is conceited enough, but he is not self-respectful. He is jaunty enough when walking vainly to Damascus, but, if he falls, he does not worship. He curses. Within his assertiveness and egoism is a strain of petulant apology. He blames things. He now reads and patronizes the literary autobiography of hopelessness rescued from filthy ancient sepulchres. What shall transform cultivated and skillful Saul? What will transform ignorant, bestial Saul also? Jesus alone can do it.
The only pulpit that men respect permanently pours forth the music of the redemption. It is tremulous with the minors of Good Friday. Believe it, my brothers. Men scorn to squander an otherwise pleas-ant hour of their Sunday, where two things are not believed: first, the fact that humanity, unhelped from God, is prostrate and despairing; second, the fact that there come hope, self respect, and manhood with Jesus Christ. People were never as willing nay, so desirous to go to church as they are now, if Christ is there to get them on their feet. Without Him, they will not stay to hear about your dream of a better day. With Him, they will not tolerate any depreciation of humanity or defamation of the soul. "I have appeared unto thee" makes the minister, and it alone will hold a congregation. Pessimism hears the story of Christ's death and cries out, "There, that is proof that this is a damnable world. Such a thing should not happen." The deeper philosophy of Paul who once was Saul of Tarsus, says: "No. While it is the saddest event of the world's long tragedy, and the most disheartening, it is the gladdest and the most encouraging, because evil, at its supreme hour, suicided there in its bold attempt to kill goodness in its supreme hour. Because of this event Christian life manifest in the death of Christ man stands on his feet in hope."
It is a fearful thing to fail to tell men of this Christ in an age both as misanthropic and aspiring as our own: Long years ago, I heard Dr. Roswell Hitch-cock speak of a Bedouin on the desert whose piteous condition was this: He had been without food so long that he was starving. His hope was that some other traveler who had already gone that way, might have left, by chance or provision, a packet of food. Away, beyond, near a fountain, he spied what he took to be a traveler's bag, and to his hunger it must contain bread. Slowly and hardly he pulled himself over the hot sand to the little pouch. He took it up and poured out before his vacant eyes a stream of glorious gems. As they wooed the sun by their splendor, his famished body fell over, while he murmured, "Oh, it is only diamonds, only diamonds!" We echo the teacher's sigh: Merciful heaven! that this should be an accurate description of so much that is called preaching! "Diamonds, only diamonds!" Years have not changed that situation for the better. It is a piteous condition of affairs for the preacher and the people. Both are disappointed sadly. Diamonds! And he, the preacher, works so long to find them, and so hard to. grind them well, and so unceasingly, perhaps, to set them in a golden paragraph and they, the people, want only the bread of life. One mouthful of plain bread, and you may have the polished dogmas, the glittering periods, the flame-like phrases, the splendid sentences. All glowing exordiums, all flashing epigrams, all brilliant perorations, for one taste of the bread of life!
When Christ Jesus said to Saul "I have appeared unto thee to make thee a minister," he gave Paul his theme, his method of appeal to men, and his conviction of success. Jesus Christ Himself is the capital on which alone the pulpit is in business. Men have the right to expect their ministers to be experts in manhood, erect, Christlike manhood, fearless, hopeful, free. They have no right to expect their ministers to compete with their fellowmen in anything else except in manifesting this Christ in His actual Lordship over them, "in our mortal flesh." Other men have better right to speak with plain authority on a multitude of other interesting subjects, than has the minister. No man ought to be able to overmatch his mental and moral right to speak on the truth, the way, the life of man-hood. Few of us are worthy to stand here. None save by God's grace. But we fail only when we vacate our particular throne of power. No ton of diamonds is worth an ounce of bread to a hungry man. We ought to feed men bread. We have no responsibility as to creating the food. God does that. Christ is given to us, and we have no need to strive to induce hunger. What Browning calls the "God-hunger" is in us all. Believe it, men are hunting for God manifested in humanity, for living bread. While I am searching for a triviality bright enough to attract a crowd, my brothers who have the right to expect me to give them to eat are begging for plain bread. No man to whom Jesus has appeared as Lord, who also has been lifted to his feet by the hopefulness of Christ, ever was solicitous for a subject to preach on, or a text for a discourse. The true minister does not run his race with lecturer, essayist, or poet, or states-man, foolishly abandoning his prerogative, to be beaten in a contest, perhaps, with a magazine article purchasable for a quarter, but sufficient to emphasize the extemporaneousness of the parson's suddenly acquired information which could not be disguised. The minister of Christ has an unfailing theme. His topic's interest depends not on war or peace, parties or revolutions it is the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world. His sermon is not a bit of pious oratory or unctuous literature, neither is it an impersonal or sentimental relating of the precious story of Jesus. His is the argument in favor of bread addressed to hunger. It is an address by a man in favor of hope, and it has the impulse of his hope grounded in Jesus. It is his experience with One who has said,, "Rise, stand upon thy feet, for I have appeared unto thee," and it is this experience reinforced by all the history and prophecy of humanity, glorified by the love of God, and illumined by the mighty presence of Jesus as a living Lord it is this, in the giving of comfort, in the urgency of appeal, in the defiance of wrong, and in the championship of right this, as it furnishes hope for mankind in Jesus Himself, makes the minister.
Let the minister say: I have before me these precious opportunities for speaking this unto you. I can waste not. I can idle not. I will not take these hours from you for any less sublime task or privilege. I do not know enough of politics, sociology, art, literature, music, or science to justify your coming to hear me speak on these topics. I know here but one thing, and if I am true to it, you will never weary of my use of your time and the expending of my limited strength. My theme has the breadth of God's love and the many sidedness of His abundant goodness. It is perennially fresh and beautiful. I will not attempt to vie with your other sources of intellectual and spiritual vitality, in furnishing you delightful information or high entertainment. If they are valuable to you, it is because each to whom you give your attention is a specialist. So, also, am I. No one else has been traveling my path with Christ. No one else has met Him where I have met Him. No man can have another's experience. Others have more of genius, learning, eloquence, health, than I; no man has had my life and its history with Christ. Many have had greater vision proportionated to greater piety, but no one else's vision of Him do I know. I do know my own. I will preach only what I believe the time is short. I will preach only what I know is supremely important in the thought of Jesus —the time is short. I will preach only what I have fallen down upon and found safe and able to bear me up the time is short. I will preach only what I found true when lately I went up to the gate of Other where the time is short. I will preach these things with absoluteness of conviction that God will bless us, and I will look for the fruit of this ministry here, where the time is short, and there, also, where time shall vanish in the morning-glow of Eternity.