Gentlemen, in the two last lectures we have investigated two of the principal sources -- perhaps I might say the two principal sources -- of a minister's power -- his manhood and his Christianity. These may be called the two natural springs out of which work for men and God proceeds. Out of these it comes as a direct necessity of nature. If anyone is much of a man -- if there be in him much fire and force, much energy of conviction -- it will be impossible for him to pass through so great an experience as the reception of Christianity without making it known; and, if he be much of a Christian -- if there be in him much of the spirit of Christ, which is the spirit of self-sacrifice and benevolence -- it will be impossible for him to refrain from approaching men in their sin and misery and endeavouring to communicate to them the secret of blessedness. He will make but a poor minister who would not be an earnest worker for God and man, even if he were not a minister.
These impulses were conspicuously strong in St. Paul. Yet there was also another source from which he drew the motives of his ministry. This was the fact that God had appointed him to the office of an apostle and allotted him a specific sphere of activity as the apostle of the Gentiles.
The other two sources of motive are, as I have said, natural; this one, on the contrary, is official. This may raise a prejudice against it. So many and such grave mistakes have been made through regarding official appointment as the only warrant for Christian work, to the prejudice of the antecedent qualifications of a genuine and sympathetic manhood and a deep personal Christianity, without which it is nothing, that there is a disposition to ignore this kind of motive altogether. But St. Paul acknowledges it. Although he was always, no doubt, far more of a man and a Christian than an official, yet, in reply to opposition, he insists with great vehemence on his apostolic rank; and evidently he felt that this imposed on him additional obligations to be earnest and faithful in the work to which his manly and Christian instincts prompted him.
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It is, indeed, of great consequence to anyone who has become a Christian, and who begins to feel stirring in his breast those impulses to serve God and bless the world which are native to the Christian spirit, to obtain a definite sphere to fill and a definite work to do. Otherwise these God-inspired impulses, expressing themselves in mere words and sentiments, gradually decay through want of exercise, or they are dispersed over so many objects that nothing is done. But, when a special task is obtained, the force of these sentiments is concentrated upon it and transmuted into actual work. The Christian man says: Here is my own task; if I do not accomplish it, no one else can; this is my corner in the great labour-field, which I, and no one else, have to make fruitful and beautiful; I shall be answerable to the Judge of all at the last for the manner in which the work assigned to me is done.
Such sentiments had a strong hold of the mind of St. Paul. One of his commonest ways of thinking of his office was as a stewardship, which he was administering, and for which by-and-by he would have to render a reckoning. |And,| says he, |it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful.| Similarly, he thought of himself as a workman with a certain portion of a temple to build; but the great Taskmaster was coming round in the evening to inspect the work -- ay, and even to test it with fire; and, when that testing-time came, he desired to be a workman not needing to be ashamed. All the work of his apostleship appeared to him a curriculum which he had to cover before he could win the prize of the Divine approval. This is his favourite figure of speech, and he applies it in many directions.
For example, the athlete in the racecourse has to keep himself in training and to put every muscle on the stretch. So St. Paul felt the obligation to put every power he possessed into his work. |Give thyself wholly to them,| he says to a young fellow-labourer about his duties; and what he preached he practised. |Stir up the grace of God that is in thee,| he says to the same friend again; and he called on his own nature continually for the utmost exertion of its powers. He was always growing; but the increment of his faculty and influence went all to the same object.
An athlete in the games naturally laid aside every weight, divesting himself of everything which might impede his running and rob him of the prize. He dared not glance aside at any object which would take his eye off the goal. So St. Paul sacrificed everything for the Gospel's sake; he had but one end and no by-ends. He was often, indeed, accused of aiming at some end of his own. With especial persistency he was accused of avarice. It is very ludicrous now to think of this great man having been supposed capable of so mean a vice. But his motives were too high and pure to be intelligible to his accusers, and they naturally attributed to him the motive which was the strongest of which they were conscious themselves. But they only brought out the true greatness of the man. He believed in the right of preachers of the Gospel to live by the Gospel, and he looked forward to the general recognition of this as soon as Christianity had obtained a footing in the world. But he himself lived above all such claims. He accepted support from his converts, indeed, and thanked God for it, when he had good reason to think that his motives were understood. But, where they were suspected or the success of the Gospel seemed to be in any degree endangered by his acceptance of money, he would not take a cent, but would rather sit up half the night and work his fingers to the bone to earn his livelihood. There is no sublimer scene in history than the great Apostle, who was bearing the weight of Christianity on his shoulders and carrying the future of the world beneath his robe, toiling with his hands for his living by the side of Aquila and Priscilla, in order that he might keep Christianity from being tarnished with the faintest suspicion of mercenary motives.
Gentlemen, among the many attractions of our calling on which I should like to congratulate you this is not the least, that it provides a definite sphere for the exercise of the benevolent impulses which you may feel as men and as Christians and, by exercising, develops them. These impulses may be the strongest and most sacred in our nature. But in other occupations, in the excitement and competition of life, they are in great danger of being slowly extinguished. In our calling, on the contrary, they receive constant opportunities of nurture and development. Their healthy and spontaneous activity is the soul of ministerial work; and this is stimulated by the sense of responsibility to fill the sphere allotted to us and exhaust its possibilities.
But, besides the sense of duty, there is a stimulus of a still more affecting kind which comes to a man when he is set over a congregation of his own. When I first was settled in a church, I discovered a thing of which nobody had told me and which I had not anticipated, but which proved a tremendous aid in doing the work of the ministry. I fell in love with my congregation. I do not know how otherwise to express it. It was as genuine a blossom of the heart as any which I have ever experienced. It made it easy to do anything for my people; it made it a perfect joy to look them in the face on Sunday morning. I do not know if this is a universal experience; but I should think it is common. For my part, I like to meet a man who thinks his own congregation, however small it may be, the most important one in the Church and is rather inclined to bore you with its details. When a man thus falls in love with his people, the probability is that something of the same kind happens to them likewise. Just as a wife prefers her own husband to every other man, though surely she does not necessarily suppose him to be the most brilliant specimen in existence, so a congregation will generally be found to prefer their own minister, if he is a genuine man, to every other, although surely not always entertaining the hallucination that he is a paragon of ability. Thus to love and to be loved is the secret of a happy and successful ministry.
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Taking up the responsibilities of his office in the spirit which I have described, St. Paul would have found any sphere, however limited, laborious. But, in point of fact, the sphere allotted to him was an enormous one. It was nothing less than the whole Gentile world.
The known world was not, indeed, in that age, of anything like the same dimensions as it is today. It consisted only of a narrow disc of countries round the shores of the Mediterranean. Yet to any other man the vocation to evangelize it all must have been bewildering and even paralyzing. St. Paul, however, accepted it in all seriousness, and ever afterwards, till the day of his death, he regarded the populations of these countries as people to whom he owed the message of the Gospel. Speaking of the two recognised divisions of the Gentile world of that day, he says, |I am debtor both to the Greeks and to the barbarians, both to the wise and to the unwise.|
Of course he did not live long enough to preach the Gospel to all the inhabitants of even the little world of his day. Yet it is amazing to think of the range of his labours. He preached in nearly all the great cities of that world -- in Antioch, Ephesus, Corinth, Athens, Rome and many others -- his predilection for cities being obviously due to the hope that, when Christ was made known in these crowded centres, the sound of his doctrine would echo through the surrounding regions. And this hope was justified. The cities in the province of Asia, for example, to which St. John sent the letters in the beginning of Revelation, were probably all evangelized from Ephesus by converts of St. Paul, though he himself may have visited none of them but Ephesus. The passion burned continually in his mind to get forward and cover new ground. He could not bear to build on another man's foundation. The wide unfulfilled provinces of his apostolate ever called him on.
His first journey was merely a circuit of the countries bordering to the west and north on his own native Cilicia, and lay chiefly among barbarians. But the second, after a still more extended tour among the barbarians, brought him to the borders of that wonderful world of culture and renown in which dwelt the Greeks as distinguished from the barbarians. He was standing on the shore of Asia and looking across to the shore of Europe. In Europe were the two great eyes of the Gentile world -- Athens and Rome -- the one the centre of its wisdom and the other of its power. How could the Apostle of the Gentiles help wishing to preach the Gospel there? He crossed the narrow strait, and then advanced from one Greek town to another, till he stood on the very spot where Socrates had taught and Demosthenes thundered. In his third journey he had to concentrate his work on Ephesus; because, like a skilful general, he would not leave territory in the rear unconquered. But Rome was now the aim of all his desires -- Rome, the very citadel of the world which he had to conquer. He approached it at last in the garb of a prisoner and in a gang of prisoners. But, as we follow him, we feel as if we were going with a victorious army to take part in a grand triumph. Indeed, as you accompany this great spirit, this is often the feeling you have. He had it himself. |Thanks be unto God,| he says, |who always causeth us to triumph.| Only to his mind the occupant of the car of victory was not himself, but Christ; he was only a satellite, showering largess in the name of the Victor among the crowd around the chariot-wheels.
Such is the image of the Apostle which grows on the imagination as we read his extraordinary life. Yet there was another side. To us now his career is heroic and glorious; but to him, at the time, it was beset with innumerable obstacles; and, wonderful as were his labours, more wonderful still were his sufferings. He went from town to town incessantly; but seldom did he leave any place without having been in peril of his life. Sometimes the mob rose against him and only left him when they had cast out of their town his apparently lifeless body, as they would have flung away the carcase of a dog. Sometimes the authorities apprehended him and subjected him to the rigour of the law. But hear the catalogue of his sufferings from his own lips: |Are they ministers of Christ? so am I: in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft; of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one, thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in cold and nakedness; besides those things which are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.| Yet, when he wrote this, he was only midway in his career.
These incidents are glorified now by the influence of time, but, when they had to be endured, they were real and painful enough. To take but a single instance, what must it have been to a man of such sensitive honour and engaged only in doing good to be so frequently in the hands of the police and in the company of malefactors? In his epistles he cannot conceal the irritation caused by his |chain.| Although in victorious moods he felt himself, as we have seen, borne onwards in triumph, in other moods he felt himself at the opposite extreme: |I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death; for we are made a spectacle unto the world and to angels and to men; we are made as the filth of the world and are the offscourings of all things|; the reference being to the gladiators whose cheap lives were sacrificed to embellish the conqueror's triumph.
Yet it was never long before he could rally from such depression at the thought of the cause in which he suffered all; and his habitual mood, in the face of accumulating difficulties, was expressed in these heart-stirring words, |None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the Gospel of the grace of God.|
It is good to linger beside one who was so faithful to his charge, so hard a worker and so patient a sufferer. We may learn from these extraordinary labours and sufferings to do honest work and to endure hardness ourselves.
Our sphere is, indeed, very different from his. His was so vast as to be almost limitless; ours may be very circumscribed. He was continually moving from place to place and encountering new people; we may have to labour among the same handful of people for a lifetime. He lived amidst daily novelty and excitement; we may have to fulfil an existence of deep monotony. And all the disadvantages do not belong to the large, difficult and dangerous lot. It may seem easy to be faithful in a small sphere and to exhaust all its possibilities. But the narrow lot has its trials as well as the wide one, and perhaps it does not require less virtue to overcome them. A stronger sense of duty may be needed to prepare an honest sermon week by week to a small and comparatively ignorant congregation than to bear the brunt of danger in an exposed post of the mission field.
Nowhere can the ministry be easy if its responsibilities are realised and its duties honestly discharged. Look forward, I would say to you, to a labourious life. If you are thinking of the ministry otherwise, you had better turn back. Ours is a more crowded existence than that of any other profession.
There is the work of study and preaching. I do not know the details of a minister's week among you; but in Scotland ministers have, as a rule, two discourses to prepare for Sunday, besides a lesson for the Bible Class, which may involve as much work as a sermon; and we have at least one week-day meeting at which a lengthy address is given. For these four discourses subjects have to be found; materials for exposition and illustration have to be collected; the mind has first to make each subject its own and then to shape it into a form suitable for popular effect. A sermon may sometimes, indeed, come in a flash, and perhaps there is something of sudden discovery in the very best work; but even then time is required to work out the thought and enrich it with subsidiary thinking; and there are many discourses which are of no value without extensive investigation and the patient working-up of the quarried materials. Then follows the writing. This will take at least six or eight hours for a discourse, and may easily take much more. Many ministers do not write more than one discourse a week fully out, and probably they are wise; but many write two. Here, then, there is obviously ample work for a long forenoon on five days of the week. I have always had to add the afternoon of Friday and Saturday, and often the evening as well. Then comes the hard and exciting work of Sunday. It is a religious duty to rest on Monday, as we do not get the bodily rest of the Sabbath.
There is the work of visitation. The sick and the bed-ridden must be visited; and it is of enormous profit to visit the whole congregation from house to house. As Dr. Chalmers said, the directest way to a man's heart is generally through the door of his home. Acquaintance with the actual circumstances of the families of the congregation gives wonderful reality and point to the prelections of Sunday. Our sermons must rise out of the congregation if they are ever to reach down to it again. Here, it is evident, there is abundant work for the afternoons which study leaves free. Many ministers have to add one or two evenings, the evening being the best time to find their people at home.
There is a third mass of work of an exceedingly miscellaneous character which absorbs much time and strength. It includes such duties as performing the ceremonies at baptisms, marriages and funerals; organizing the work of the congregation; attending church courts and sitting on committees; serving on school boards and the boards of benevolent societies; preaching from home and addressing the meetings of neighbour ministers; writing official letters; raising money; receiving visitors; writing for the press. It would be easy for ministers in positions of any prominence to spend their whole time in duties of this description, none of which might appear useless; so great is the multitude of the claims which pour in from every side.
I have said nothing of the time required for keeping abreast of the literature of the day or for cultivating an intellectual specialty. It is extraordinary what some of the busiest men achieve in this respect; but it is only managed by an economy and even penury of time for which a kind of genius is requisite. Of course there are seasons of the year when the pressure of public engagements is not so great; and ministers are allowed longer holidays than other professional men. A couple of hours a day given from a holiday to great reading may shoot threads of fresh colour through the whole web of a season's work. Nor have I said anything of the time necessary for thinking over the devotional portion of the service of the sanctuary, though in our churches, where free prayer prevails, this deserves as careful attention as the sermon.
The glimpse which I have given you into the details of a minister's week will help you to realise that the life which lies before you is a labourious one. Of course the labour may be shirked. Ministers have their time in their own hands; they have no office hours; and, I suppose, a minister's life may be more ignobly idle than any other professional man's. That is, if he has no conscience.
How far a man who is conscientious and works hard may be justified in devoting himself to one branch of ministerial work for which he has special aptitudes or predilections, it is difficult to judge. Perhaps the Protestant Church has failed in making use of special gifts. Some eminent preachers, for example, neglect pastoral visitation; and there are, I suppose, many ministers who keep out of more general public work, because they have no taste for it. There may be some gain in this; but there is also loss. When a preacher does not visit, he is apt to become an orator, who dazzles but does not feed the flock. When a minister keeps himself apart from public interests, the Church to which he belongs is likely to be weak at that point.
The most fatal neglect is that of study; and perhaps it is the commonest. The part of our work which needs most moral resolution is undoubtedly the sermon -- to get it begun, studied, written and finished. It requires the discipline of years in even the most conscientious to win the mastery of themselves in this particular; and it is probably at this point that three-fourths of all ministerial failures take place. It is not the reading of the material bearing on the subject which is difficult; indeed, this may be luxuriously prolonged, till it is too late to think and write the sermon out. The hard and sour toil lies in facing the sweat of thought and the irksomeness of writing; although, when the difficulty is overcome, the happiness and triumph of our calling lie here also.
Of course this difficulty is greatest in the small sphere. Here the temptation is, to be overcome by the monotony of the situation, to allow the powers to stagnate, to feel that anything will do, and put the people off with that which has cost no exertion. |I know,| says one who wields a trenchant pen, |how plausible the excuses are, and I know what relaxation of study results in -- laziness in the morning, increasing excesses in the daily papers, increased interest in gardening, several more pipes a day, and so forth. Breakfast comes finally to its long-deferred end about ten; then there is a consultation with the gardener, which is, of course, business, and makes the idler feel that really his active habits are returning; then two letters have to be answered; then, just as he means to go to his study, he sees Mr. Fritterday passing, and before he has finished his colloquy over the hedge with him, it is past midday. When he does get to his study, Macmillan or Blackwood is lying on his table, and he feels he cannot settle till he knows what is the fate of the heroine of the current story, or his window overlooks the busy hayfield of his neighbour, and he becomes ten times more interested in that work than in his own; and so his whole forenoon is gone, and he is summoned to dinner before he has earned his salt by one decent hand's turn.|
This kind of temptation, however, is not confined to the man in the small and easy situation: it is the common temptation of all ministers. Only in the city it comes in another form. The man who has a large congregation and a little popularity is beset with calls from every quarter to engage in every kind of duty outside his own sphere. His doorbell never ceases ringing. Every applicant supposes his own case the most important. There is a whirl of excitement, and there is an exhilaration in being able in many ways to serve the public. But, if the man gives up his habits of study, he is lost. His appearances become commonplace; the public tire of him, and throw him aside as ruthlessly as they have senselessly idolized him. Robert Hall used to say that, when the devil saw that a minister was likely to be useful in the church, his way of disposing of him was to get on his back and ride him to death with engagements.
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To follow the course of St. Paul's labours and sufferings on the grand scale produces an overwhelming impression of earnestness and devotion; yet it is even more by entering into the minute details of his activity that we find the apostle. One who has to deal with vast masses is apt to overlook details; and it is so even in the work of Christ. An evangelist, for example, moving from place to place and surrounded with multitudes, may know very little of individuals. The minister of a large congregation is exposed to the same temptation. Indeed, we are all too desirous of crowds and too little occupied with the units of which they are composed. But this is the greatest of all mistakes. St. Paul, amidst the constant change of scene and the pressure of large bodies of people in which he lived, never overlooked individuals. In his speech to the elders of Ephesus he could challenge them to bear witness that he had taught not only publicly but from house to house, and had warned everyone night and day with tears. While, like his Master, he was moved by the sight of a multitude and welcomed the opportunity of making known the glad tidings to many, he was quite as ready to preach to the small company of women of whom Lydia was one at the riverside or to the soldier to whom he was chained in the Roman prison.
St. Paul was never a mere evangelist. The evangelist's work is to deal with the initial stage of the Christian life: he has to bring men to decision; and, when this is done, he passes on, leaving to other agencies whatever more may be required. An evangelist sometimes knows very little of what becomes of his converts after he has quitted the place. But St. Paul was as eager about this as about the first impressions. However small the company of the converted might be, he formed them into a Christian Church, and ordained elders in every city. He often left an assistant behind to carry on and consolidate the work which he had begun. When at a distance, he was always eager for news about his churches. His epistles are full of such anxieties; and, indeed, his epistles themselves are the best monument of his pastoral care; for they were written to ask after the welfare of those whom he had left behind, or to give counsel on points about which they had consulted him. They brim over with the expressions of a tender and heartfelt love. He is able to assure those to whom he is writing that he is praying for them, and that not only in the mass but one by one. He kept their faces and names alive in his memory by thus recalling them at the throne of grace; and his life must have been one long prayer about his work.
Sometimes he lets the prayer which he has been offering slip through his pen; and then we see how high was the ideal of Christian attainment which he cherished on behalf of his converts. He was not content that they had turned from their old sins and taken the first steps in the Divine life. He longed to see them becoming creditable specimens of Christianity and ornaments to the Church -- complete men, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. It was life itself to him to hear of their progress: |Now we live if ye stand fast in the Lord.| And the crown to which he looked forward as the reward of all his toils and sufferings was to be permitted at last to present the soul of everyone of them as a chaste virgin to Christ.
Gentlemen, I believe that almost any preacher, on reviewing a ministry of any considerable duration, would confess that his great mistake had been the neglect of individuals. If I may be permitted a personal reference: when, not long ago, I had the opportunity, as I was passing from one charge to another, of reviewing a ministry of twelve years, the chief impression made on me, as I looked back, was that this was the point at which I had failed; and I said to myself that henceforth I would write Individuals on my heart as the watchword of my ministry.
We make impressions in the church; but we do not follow them up, to see that the decision is arrived at and the work of God accomplished; and so they are dissipated by the influences of the world; and those who have experienced them are perhaps made worse instead of better. It is a very significant thing that is said of the pastor in our Lord's parable -- that he sought the lost sheep |until he found it.| We seek: we even seek labouriously and painfully: but we frequently leave off just before finding.
A minister told me that, on the Saturday evening before his first Sunday in his first charge, the experienced minister who was to introduce him to his people next day was strolling with him in the vicinity of the village and talking about his duties, when they chanced to pass a plantation of trees. Pointing to them, the aged minister asked, |If you had to cut these trees down, how would you go about it? would you go round the whole plantation, giving each tree a single blow, and then go round them all again, giving each a second blow|? |Well, no,| he answered, |I think I should attack one tree and cut at it till it came down; and then go on and do the same to a second and a third, and so forth.| |Well,| said his experienced friend, |that is the way you must do here. After you have been settled a short time, you will discover which families and individuals are most impressed by your first efforts, and you must devote yourself to these susceptible souls, till you have won them thoroughly; and then in their enthusiasm for yourself and their willingness to work for the congregation you will have the best foundation for a successful ministry.|
In a former lecture I spoke of the power of discerning in men and women of every class and condition the humanity which is common to all and speaking straight to that, without reference to the superficial differences which distinguish class from class and one individual from another. But ministerial sympathy has to embrace what is peculiar to classes and individuals as well as what is common to all. Though St. Paul, like his Master, had a powerful grasp of what is universal in humanity, yet to the Jew he made himself a Jew, that he might gain the Jew, and to them that were without law as without law, that he might gain them who were without law; he was made all things to all men, that he might gain the more.
His persuasion obviously was, that God was trying, by His revelation among those who possessed the Written Word, and by His providence among those who did not possess it, to lead His children by divers ways to Himself; and his own duty was to join himself to each company at the stage which it had reached and offer to become its conductor. The Jew was more advanced, and he met him where he was; the Gentile was further behind, and he had to go back and approach him also where he stood, that he might win his confidence and be allowed to lead him on.
This is the persuasion which gives a minister faith in his own work. The souls of men are God's. His providence is a discipline intended to lead them to Himself; there are none with whom His Spirit does not strive. And it is only as our work co-operates with His that it is of any effect. Where God has been working, opening and softening the heart, very simple efforts, put forth at the right moment, may go a long way, and the work of God be quickly done.
What situation could be more pathetic to a sensitive and sympathetic mind than that of a minister when he stands up in the pulpit and looks down on the congregation? What a variety of conditions are before him! In one pew there is a man who during the week has been fighting a losing battle with his business and sees himself on the verge of bankruptcy; in the next may be a merchant into whose lap fortune has been pouring her gifts in handfuls. Here is a mother who is thinking of her son who has just left his home and is sailing on the sea; and there a girl whose heart is rejoicing in the happy dreams of youth. On the right may be a young man who is trembling on the brink of the great temptation of his life, and on the left another who is reeking from some orgy of secret sin. There is endless variety; yet none are uninteresting; and probably there is no one but, if you could meet him exactly where he stands, would respond to the influence which you bring. It arrests men when you are able to show such a knowledge of the human heart that they feel themselves discovered; and it disposes a man to answer to your call if he sees that you are familiar with the circumstances in which he will have to lead the life to which you are inviting him, and that you appreciate the difficulties of the situation. Therefore the more a minister knows of the variety of actual life the better; and, if he is to do really effective work, he must know how to come down from the pulpit and put himself alongside of individuals.
Here I might again recommend the work of visitation and the practice of being accessible at home to the visits of those who come with confidences to communicate; but let me rather close this lecture with a word or two on some of the more favourable opportunities which ministerial life affords for direct dealing with individuals.
One of the best opportunities of this kind is when parents come seeking baptism for their children. When you are speaking in their children's interest, men will welcome an amount of faithfulness which they would not endure at other times. You can show how much their children's welfare in time and eternity may depend on their own religious condition; you can urge the duty of family worship; and you must have very little skill if you cannot get very close to their hearts. Especially when a man comes about the baptism of his first child, he is perhaps in the most favourable state for an earnest talk in which you can ever find him. His soul is opened with tenderness and overawed with the mystery of life; he is longing with his whole heart to do his best for his child; and, if you show him that the best he can do for it is to become connected with the great source of holy influence himself, there is no other occasion on which a good impression is more likely to be made.
The other opportunity which I should like to mention is when the young come to join the Church. I well remember that, when I was a student, there was no part of a minister's duty to which I looked forward with so much fear and trembling as this; for I had the conviction, which I still have, that it is our duty at this crisis to bring the question of personal salvation in the most direct and solemn way before every intending communicant, and that it is ministerial treason to let the opportunity slip. Some of you may be looking forward to this with the same feelings; and, therefore, I am happy to tell you that in practice it is not nearly so difficult as it seems at a distance. The applicants themselves expect you to be faithful; if you are, they will honour you for it, and, if not, they will be disappointed. If they get the opportunity, they are far franker than you would expect. No doubt it is delicate work, and one has to guard against harshness and anything inquisitorial; but it yields the most blessed results. This is the harvest-time of the minister's year, when he sees that his labour is not in vain. Even one such close talk, brought about in this way or otherwise, casts a glow of reality into one's work which does not pass away for weeks; and, if a minister is so highly honoured as to receive many of these confidences, he acquires a skill in laying his finger on the very pulse of his hearers' deepest life which nothing else can give.
An indication of the intensity with which St. Paul's mind worked upon the subject of the ministry is to be found in the number and variety of his metaphors for it. The following are those which I have noted, but there may be more -- nurse (1 Thess. ii.7), father (1 Cor. iv.15), gardener (1 Cor. iii.6), labourer (1 Cor. iii.9), builder (1 Cor. iii.10), servant (1 Cor. iv.1), bondman (2 Tim. ii.24), steward (1 Cor. iv.1), ambassador (Eph. vi.20), soldier (1 Tim. vi.12), herald (1 Tim. ii.7), shepherd (Acts xx.28), workman (2 Tim. ii.15), athlete (1 Tim. iv.7), vessel (2 Tim. ii.21).
|Go where you can do most for men, not where you can get most from men.
|Be more concerned about your ability than about your opportunity, and about your walk with God than either.
|Your sphere is where you are most needed.
|There is no place without its difficulties: by removing you may change them, it may be you will increase them; but you cannot escape them.| -- PREDIGER.
|A sermon which costs little is worth as much as it has cost. Yet measure not the value of the sermon by the length and hardness of your labour.| -- DUPANLOUP.
The first Sunday I was in America, I worshipped in the churches of Rev. Dr. W.M. Taylor and Rev. Dr. John Hall, who are, I suppose, the two most eminent ministers of New York; and I was astonished to hear both of them intimate that they would visit in certain streets during the week. There are no ministers anywhere more immersed than these in every kind of public duty; yet they find time for regular pastoral visitation. On coming home, I mentioned this fact to an equally eminent minister in my own country. |Well,| said he, |when I came to the city, the elders of my congregation advised me not to visit, and I followed their advice; but it was the worst advice I ever got.|
Dr. Marcus Dods.
|Get others to talk: what a man says to you has more influence upon him than all you can say to him.
|It is not the time of sickness so much as the time of convalescence that decides the future life. Remember this, and seize opportunities.| -- PREDIGER.
|Much of the Gospels is taken up with conversations between Christ and individuals. Teaching so startling and difficult as His, with such an element in it of attraction and hope, naturally drew around Him many who sought to know further what this Gospel meant. He, on His part, was as eager to meet inquirers as they were to seek Him; and we find that He bestowed as much care and pains in expounding the nature of His kingdom to individuals as He did when He was speaking to great multitudes. The audience, if small, was fit. Not only so, but we find that He put Himself in the way of individuals.| -- NICOLL, The Incarnate Saviour.