A Call To the Ministry
More ministers, and better ministers, are the great want of the Church.
Indisputably, the duties of private Christians are greatly underrated and neglected. Religion needs to pervade all ranks of society, and all classes of laborers. It needs to be found supreme in the family, the counting house, on the farm, everywhere; and a great reform, a genuine, universal revival, is the only remedy for prevalent evils. But the reform may be expected most reasonably, and should be sought for most earnestly and immediately, at the fountain-head of Christian influence: for as, by the blessing of God, better churches will make a better world, so a better ministry will secure better churches.
Ordinarily, a church is rated according to its ministry. If that is deficient, inactive, indolent, devoid of enterprise, uncultivated, illiberal, gross — such, it is naturally inferred, will be the body formed and directed under its leadership. If the ministry is energetic, zealous, improving; if it lays its plans with wisdom, prosecutes them with fidelity, and adheres to them with steadfastness; if it shows a cordial interest in whatever pertains to the education and general advancement of the people; if, above all, it is earnestly and obviously consecrated to the great work of saving souls, and training the saved, — all this will indicate or produce a corresponding state of things in the churches.
No question, then, of greater important can be pondered, wither reference to the welfare of our churches, than those which connect themselves with the proper filling up of the ranks of the ministry. And among these, it is fundamental to inquire, — What is a Call to the Ministry? Or, in other words, How may one’s Duty to enter the Ministry be ascertained?
I. THE ONLY TRUE CALL TO THE MINISTRY IS FROM GOD.
This theoretically at least, is conceded on all hands. A king, or even an ordinary man, has the right to select his own servants. And “minister” is but a more learned word for servant. An ambassador has no authority, except commissioned and authenticated by the Court from which he comes. The severest censures and woes are denounced against those who ran without being sent, and prophesied lies in the name of the Lord. They were to be “a terror to themselves and to all their friends.” True pastors, evangelists, and teachers, on the other hand, are the express gift of the ascended Savior to his people.
So obvious, and so important is this truth, that even by those who have degraded the ministry into a mere trade or profession, wherein, by the assumption of vast and mysterious spiritual authority, men pursue earthly gain, it has still been considered necessary that the candidate should declare himself urged thereto by the Holy Ghost.
But how is this call made known? And how may any one learn for himself whether he is called?
II. GOD MAKES KNOWN THEIR DUTY TO THOSE WHO PRAYERFULLY INQUIRE.
It is not to be expected that a conviction of duty to enter the ministry will force itself on the suitable persons, without the use of means, and without their ever considering the subject.
A sort of undefined idea appears to prevail with many that in regard to the ministry, a man must wait, supine, indifferent, and un-inquiring, till some irresistible force, some strange impulse, which has originated in no prayer, no inquiry after duty, no deliberation, no self-examination, shall thrust him forth into a work for which he has only dread and repugnance.
Now it is true that, while in most cases there is a calm, sober, deliberate persuasion, the growth of prayerful inquiry, which prompts one to enter the ministry, there are instances of a sudden and overwhelming conviction, which is as a fire in the bones, mastering in an instant all the passions of the nature, and controlling all its powers to this end. But such is neither the necessary nor the usual course of the divine Spirit. And there have been instances of a “strange fire” on God’s altars, a “zeal not according to knowledge,” where men claim to have this sudden, irresistible call, and demand to be recognized as Christ’s ministers on evidences entirely undiscoverable by any but themselves, and assume a sort of infallibility akin to actual inspiration.
This whole class of notions is utterly at variance with the admitted duty of ministers and churches to refuse to ordain those whom they judge unfit. If the divine call were this semi-miraculous thing, this direct light from heaven, — which so strangely does not shine, — how could it be judged by others? How dare any man question, or try, or examine God’s ambassador? To make the call to the ministry consist in some supposed indubitable, irresistible, divine afflatus, of which no evidence is found except the confident impressions and assertions of the candidate, is clearly to open the door to all kinds of extravagance, imposture, and fanatical abuses. Nor is it sustained by a single passage of God’s word.
It is a solemn truth, that by negligence, and even diffidence, one may long procrastinate his duty in reference to the ministry, —may incur guilt, and suffer loss, not only of usefulness, but also of happiness and a good conscience. Why should it be thought impossible for a man to be inattentive to his duty in this matter, and to sin in doing so? It may be urged, that if he is really called, he will obey the call, sooner or later. That may be true; and so the man who is efficaciously called by the Holy Spirit will undoubtedly accept the gospel call, believe, and be saved. Yet there is sin in neglecting the gospel call, or postponing faith; why not, in the neglect of the ministerial call? When Moses shrank from the mission to which he was summoned and said, “Send by the hand of him whom thou wilt send,” it may have looked like modesty, but it was presumption, and the anger of God was kindled against his timid and reluctant servant.
III. THE PRINICIPLE OF CONSECRATION TO CHRIST OUGHT TO CONTROL ALL CHRISTIANS IN SELECTING AND PROSECUTING THEIR AVOCATION.
Every Christian is bought with a price, and bound to glorify God, both with body and spirit, for both are his. All are equally redeemed. All owe unreserved obedience. All should aim at entire consecration. Can any reason be assigned, why the Christian physician, merchant, lawyer, or farmer should not select his occupation, and prosecute his chosen pursuit, with as distinct a view to the honor of Christ, as the minister?
Two brothers are converted, at the same time, under the same circumstances, and set out together in their Christian career. They are alike in education and general character. One feels impressed with the duty of laboring directly to win or care for souls, and proceeds from one step to another, till he becomes a minister. The other, with equal talents, and precisely the same opportunities of doing good, turns to the pursuit of the law. Both may be right. That is not questioned. But is it not also true, that they are alike under obligation to Christ, and owe equal consecration to his service; that the lawyer in his practice, and the merchant in his money-making, no less than the minister in his preaching, ought to be controlled by the principle of “doing all to the glory of God;” and therefore that the selection of his pursuit, as well as the manner in which he conducts it, should be decided by the consideration of the greatest usefulness? Thus “HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD” may be inscribed on all the avocations of life; as it is represented that, in the latter days, the common implements of business, and even the bells of the horses, shall be sanctified with this inscription.
It is of little purpose to say that this is not the principle on which men generally act. But is not this the one on which they ought to act? Is it not what the Redeemer deserves, what our Master requires?
We are all sent in to the harvest field to labor; and there we are instructed to select our own places and kinds of employment. We are not left to do this, however, at our own convenience and taste, but according to the tools with which we are furnished. And it will not be difficult to decide if we are actuated by simple love and fidelity to the Master.
A company of workmen are sent into a field, provided with different kinds of implements, according to their several skill and adaptation. Those who are supplied with hoes must go to a part of the field which needs that kind of work, and those with plows must go where plowing is wanted; those who have axes must seek the spot that needs clearing, and fell the forest, and remove obstructions; while the little ones and the weak, that can do no more, must collect the brush into piles, or gather stones from the surface, or mind the gaps, or bring water and food to refresh the stronger laborers; and thus the work goes joyously on, by each doing what he can do best.
To drop the figure, every one’s duty is indicated by his abilities, circumstances, and adaptations. “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do” do that thing, and do it “with they might.” We are not, any of us, permitted to gratify our own ease-loving and self-indulgent dispositions, by seeking some warm, sunny spot for winter’s labor, some cool shade for summer, some light and gentle soil, where the least possible exertion is required. If we do, we become liable to the doom of being “lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.”
The principle is laid down, — the promotion of God’s glory. “Whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” The question, What can I do best? or Where can I do most? if clearly answered, settles the question, What am I called to do? Thus, if we may so say, every man carries his call in his own hands and heart. His commission is his capacity. By the simple fact of being peculiarly fitted to do anything for God, he becomes bound to do that thing.
The work of the ministry is not all of one kind, nor is any iron standard of qualification prescribed in the word of God. Among the gifts which the exalted Savior has bestowed upon his people, he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers. The necessity of a diversity of gifts is not less manifest in our day. The settled pastor, gifted in instruction, the vigilant overseer, skilled in drawing out and directing the energies of his people, the active evangelist, kindling like Paul a flame in many regions, the elder that rules well, besides laboring in word and doctrine —all have their usefulness now. There is place for all, and work for all.
It is evident, however, that all pious men are not under obligation to become ministers; nor all warm-hearted, talented, educated men. Such Christians are wanted in other professions also. The question is not, Could I do any good, as a minister? but, Where can I do the most good?
If God has bestowed gifts, he designated them to be used. There is no waste of blessings, no superfluity, no deficiency. There is enough given, if all were rightly used. There is not one grain needless.
It appears, then, that the existence of the requisite qualifications, natural and spiritual, and the arrangement of the providential circumstances, which open the way, constitute of themselves a call to the ministry. Or, as the judicious Andrew Fuller has expressed it, “Whoever possesses the essential qualifications for the Christian ministry, is called to exercise them.” The question now recurs:
IV. WHAT ARE THE QUALIFIACTIONS REQUISITE FOR A MINISTER OF THE GOSPEL?
It need scarcely be said that piety is essential. No amount of talent, no extent of education, no apparent brilliancy of fervor, should ever be allowed to gain admission into the ministry for one whose piety there is reason to doubt, or who has not a more than ordinarily active and consistent holiness. A Christless minister is as horribly out of place as a ghastly skeleton in the pulpit, bearing a torch in his hand.
Good intellect, some facility in acquiring knowledge, and some capacity to speak, are obviously indispensable. If a man has not these, in some degree, at the outset, it is not likely he will acquire them, either during the process of education, or in the work of the ministry. A man who cannot preach at all, before he comes to a theological seminary, rarely learns how afterwards.
And then common sense is a very important quality, a practical tact, in which often God has been training some, whom he calls, comparatively late in life, from the counter, or the lawyer’s desk, and who need not, therefore, count their time lost. Every one knows some persons who “are amiable in temper, and good in the intentions, but they never can do a thing right. They may be very laborious, but they bring little to pass. Some small, if not some great mistake, is found to mar the whole. But why it is they fail, they cannot imagine. Nor can you effectually teach them. To put them right in one thing, is, at best, to fix one more rule or precedent in the memory, which they will perhaps as blindly or fancifully apply in the next. You impart no practical wisdom; and consequently, though they may be very grateful, and very confident for the future, they are none the better. They are continually plunging into difficulties. Help them out of six troubles, and they are soon in the seventh.”
“It is grievous,” adds Dr. R Emerson, the author of this graphic sketch, ” that such men should ever enter the sacred ministry, where sound common sense is more needed than anywhere else; where no two transactions, whether in the pulpit or out of it, are precisely alike, and nothing can be done by mere rule; and where wayward and fanciful experiments are the most unseemly and the most perilous.”
Energy of character is an important prerequisite. The duties of the ministry are such that an indolent man will find abundant temptations, and plausible excuses, while he will be not merely useless, but positively hurtful. A sluggish body can be driven to work, a sluggish mind rarely, a sluggish heart never. There is a force of character, a habit of persisting and succeeding, a power to influence and kindle others, a capacity to inspire confidence and general esteem, which, whatever name may be given to it, is essential to success.
In regard to these qualifications, the churches are usually better judges that the individual himself, and must exercise their judgment with prudence and fidelity, under a solemn sense of their accountability, and “lay not careless hands on heads that cannot teach and will not learn.”
There is another qualification, however, on which the question mainly turns; it is an ardent and self-denying desire to labor for the good of souls. This is not a natural quality. It must be implanted by the Holy Spirit, and become an abiding, decided, and effective habit of the soul.
Now, whether the Holy Spirit has actually wrought this in the heart, thus signing, sanctioning, and sealing the call, is to be ascertained in the same way as other influences of the Holy Spirit; not by voices and visions, not by mere transitory impressions, or confident yet groundless persuasions, but by positive moral changes produced in the habitual temper, character, and desires. We should seek for evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work in calling to the ministry, as we seek for evidence of his work in converting the soul. Neither is ordinarily manifested by a token, which admits of no doubt or hesitation, which is incapable of being either strengthened or weakened by subsequent developments; but usually by a number of particulars, which, when compared with the word of God, prove possession of the characteristics demanded.
We do not deny that the evidence may be instantaneous and overwhelming. It may be. Regeneration itself we suppose to be always instantaneous; the evidence of it to the individual himself may be, or it may not. Sometimes it is as the flash of noonday radiance at midnight. At other times, it is as the gradual coming of the dawn, doubts being dispelled, and darkness gradually dispersed, as the morning mists flee, and shadows lessen, before the advancing sun. So in regard to a call to the ministry. There is a diversity of operation, but the same Spirit.
This steadfast and divinely implanted desire to labor for souls is substantially what is meant by “the internal call.” It may be distinguished from the early zeal, which young converts usually have, and which “generally subsides into a calm principle of benevolent activity” in their own particular sphere. In the man truly called, it grows, it increases. As he reflects on it, and prays about it, the great salvation becomes greater and nearer to him than when he first believed; the guilt and ruin of immortal souls weigh heavily upon him; he feels impelled to warn them to flee the wrath to come.
Sometimes the thought presses on one, so that he cannot rest. The strongest promptings of self-interest, the greatest timidity and natural reserve, the most violent opposition of irreligious relatives and influential friends, and even the most serious peril to life, prove insufficient to check this holy ardor. The man is made to feel that for him all other avocations are trifling, all worldly employments unattractive. “Woe is me,” he cries, “if I preach not the gospel!” Jails, and fetters, and the stake, have no terrors for him comparable with the guilt of disobeying Jesus, and the frown of his Redeemer.
“Happy, if with my latest breath
I may but gasp his name,
Preach him to all, and cry in death,
Behold! Behold the Lamb!”
Sometimes, on the other hand, there is a more calm and gradual growth of a conviction of duty; one is drawn by delight, rather than driven by dread. He loves to think of Jesus, and so he loves to talk of Jesus; and with much distrust of himself, perhaps, he finds an increasing desire to be wholly absorbed and occupied in such things. A calm and deliberate comparison of various courses of life shows him that the ministry offers arduous labor, with little worldly advantage or honor; heavy responsibilities, painful to a sensitive nature; and a life-long toil, with no remission, till Jesus calls him to rest. But though consciously weak, he can simply rely on divine direction to guide, and divine strength to uphold, and in view of the dying world and the bleeding cross and the burning throne he can freely consecrate himself to be “Jesus Christ’s man,” to go where he bids, to utter what he teaches, to endure what he pleases to appoint, and thank God if he may be counted worthy to suffer for his name.
Now we need numbers in the ministry. The plenteous, perishing harvest wails out a despairing cry for more laborers. But we need purity more than numbers; we need intelligence more than numbers; we need zeal more than we need numbers. Above all, we need consecrated men, —men who have stood beneath the cross, till their very souls are dyed with Jesus’ blood, and a love like his for perishing millions has been kindled within them. We long for such men, but for such only, as are willing to “endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ.”
If this meets the eye of any young brother, whose mind may have been directed to this subject, allow me to present some practical inquiries, which may help you to come to a decision.
Do you habitually entertain and cherish the conviction that you are not your own; but, as dead with Christ, are bound to live not unto yourself, but unto him who died for you, and rose again?
Do you feel willing to serve him in whatsoever employment you can most glorify his name?
Do you watch for opportunities of doing good, and avail yourself of those that offer, in the Sunday school, in the prayer meeting, and by the wayside?
Do you sincerely desire to make it the business of your life to labor for souls? Is this desire habitual, disinterested, and prompted by love to Jesus, and compassion for the impenitent?
Do you find that other employments seem comparatively uninviting, and this delightful, apart from any considerations of worldly ease or emolument?
Does your impression of duty with regard to the ministry grow stronger, at those times when you are most favored with nearness to God, and when you most distinctly realize eternal things?
Is your willingness to engage in such service connected with a clear and cordial renunciation of self-seeking, and a simple reliance on him whose grace is promised to be sufficient?
Is it joined with a humble estimate of your own powers, and with a willingness to use all necessary and suitable means for the improvement of those powers?
Is it a desire for this work, not as a temporary resort, as a refuge for indolence, or an avenue to fame, but as a lifetime labor, in prosperity or adversity, in evil report and in good report, that God may be honored and sinners saved?
If you can answer, “Yes,” then welcome, brother! We give you the right hand of fellowship to go forth and labor for Jesus.
V. THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD IS OFTEN SO DIRECTED AS TO CONFIRM THE CALL, IMPRESSED ON THE MIND.
Circumstances in one’s situation, previous training, relationships, pecuniary condition, will frequently contribute to open the way for an entrance upon the work. Sometimes, too, there may be an unexpected removal of obstacles or offer of aid, so that the barriers which had seemed impassable, fall before our eyes, while making the subject a matter of prayer.
Sometimes circumstances draw a man gradually, imperceptibly, unconsciously, into labors which develop his powers, and awaken desires for usefulness too glowing to be easily repressed. One will find a Sunday-school left upon his hands; another will see a prayer-meeting that must languish, unless he throws his energies into it; another will find himself drawn into conversations, or perhaps correspondence, with the unconverted, and his heart is gladdened by the first overpowering joy of having “saved a soul from death;” others have found that in the destitution of their church, it seemed to devolve on them to lead in singing and prayer, perhaps to read a sermon or to exhort the congregation, till they have begun to preach almost before they knew it.
Again, the approval of Christian brethren, and the interest taken in his efforts by the community, especially by the devout, is a strong and, in most cases, an indispensable confirmation of the internal call. It may be taken for granted that, if the Lord calls any one to preach, he calls somebody to hear him. And if there are none to whom his attempts are acceptable, or seem promising, it is worthwhile to inquire whether his imagined call may not have been a whisper of his own vanity, or an echo from the vaulted emptiness of his indolence or ambition.
Of the qualifications of an external character, such as are laid down in the Epistle to Timothy, — of prudence, aptness to teach, good report, patience, freedom from covetousness—the churches are the best judges; and their decision is rarely too unfavorable, often unduly compliant with the wishes of the ignorant and the self-willed.
This leads us to remark, that
VI. THE DUTY OF THE CHURCHES WITH REFERENCE TO THE MINISTRY OF THE FUTURE IS OF THE HIGHEST IMPORTANCE.
This duty is twofold. It is obviously a duty, as all agree, to exercise a proper caution in refusing to admit to the ministry those who may be judged unworthy, or likely to be unfruitful. Novices are to be delayed, till they have been proved; and brawlers are to be rejected, and men given to wine, and covetous men, and other characters named in Scripture.
It is to be feared that some times churches have forgotten the caution enjoined upon them in this regard by him who walketh among the golden candlesticks. Personal friendship and fear of hurting feelings must not override fidelity to Christ.
But it is equally important, though perhaps even more commonly forgotten, to consider that we have a duty to discharge in seeking out and bringing forward those who are suitable. The duty is not all done, when we have merely kept the unworthy out, if we leave the ranks gradually thinning, and bring in few, or none at all. It is of unspeakable importance to guard well the entrance to the ministry. But it is of not less importance to use all those means which God has appointed or placed within our reach, by which laborers are summoned to their places, and fitted for them.
It is emphatically a subject for general, united, fervent prayer. When our Savior gazed on the multitudes, in the plains before him, scattered abroad as sheep having no shepherd, he said to his disciples, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; pray ye, therefore, the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest;” and immediately he gave commission to the twelve apostles. On a subsequent occasion he repeated the same command in connection with sending forth the seventy. Eighteen hundred years have elapsed, and the plenteous harvest waves before us still. Thousands of laborers have done their work and rested from their toil, but the harvest has been continually widening and increasing and ripening; nor have all the sickles that have been thrust in, been sufficient. To this day, the cry is re-echoed with mournfully increased earnestness, from every portion of the Christian Church, and from every benighted region of the heathen world, – “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few.”
This deficiency of laborers obviously cannot be imputed to the Almighty. He would not omit to answer the prayer dictated by himself. It is owing to the sin of the members of the churches; some in neglecting to go as laborers; others in neglecting to pray for laborers; and all in disregarding more or less the claims and necessities of a perishing world. One thing is certain; such ministers as the cause demands, –laborers, not idlers; –and laborers sent forth by the Lord of the harvest, not busybodies, answering without a call, and running without a message, —such laborers are the fruit of prayer. God has commanded us to pray for them, and will not grant them without prayer. We may have done everything else to obtain them, except pray for them. They will not be bestowed.
But prayer is not the whole of our duty in this matter. Effort without prayer is impiety; prayer without effort is hypocrisy. Sincere prayer for more laborers will prompt us to seek for them diligently, to welcome them cordially, to aid them in preparing for, and in accomplishing their work. A people who pray for more ministers, but starve and undervalue those they have, will soon have none to value, and little heart to pray for others. To pray for an increase of learning, holiness, and seal in the ministry, and yet use not means to promote either, is an inconsistency too glaring to escape observation, but not too glaring to be committed.
VII. THIS SUBJECT DEMANDS PRAYERFUL EXAMINATION FROM THE YOUNG MEN OF OUR CHURCHES AS TO THEIR PERSONAL DUTY.
Probably every young man of ordinary abilities and advantages, that joins the church, ought to inquire whether it might not be his duty to enter the ministry. He may be enabled, and in fact compelled, very speedily to decide the question in the negative. If so, a prayerful, candid, earnest inquiry into this subject will have done him no harm, but rather good. His conscience is clear, on that point at least. He will probably be made more faithful and pious in any vocation he may select, from having pondered fully the principles of Christian obligation involved in this decision.
Young brethren, connected with our Colleges, permit me to urge this question especially upon you. Gathered there to pursue your literary studies, you have advantages and powers which may well prompt the inquiry whether, with all these talents entrusted to you, you are willing to go up to receive the doom of unprofitable servants, that hid their Lord’s talent in the earth. Spared many of you, amid surrounding deaths; delivered from the pestilence walking in darkness, and the destruction wasting at noonday; should not those lives be consecrated wholly to Christ? Shall the flowers of promise and the luxuriant verdure of early advantages pass away, leaving nothing but withered leaves? Do you mean to take up, in your old age, the sad plaint of disappointment and uselessness?
“Nothing but leaves; the Spirit grieves
Over a wasted life,
O’er sin committed while conscience slept,
Promises made but never kept,
Folly and shame and strife; –
Nothing but leaves.
“Nothing but leaves; and memory weaves
No veil to hide the past.
And as we trace our weary way,
Counting each lost and mis-spent day,
Sadly we find at last
Nothing but leaves.
“And shall we meet the Master so,
Bearing our withered leaves?
The Savior looks for perfect fruit;
Stand we before him sad and mute,
Waiting the word he breathes?
‘Nothing but leaves!’”
Do you say there are difficulties in the way of your becoming a minister? Very likely. It never was convenient to serve God, and never will be. If a man intends to wait until all obstacles are removed from the way of duty, —until there is no Hill Difficulty to climb, no strait gate to enter, —he will wait forever; he will never enter the ministry; he will never enter heaven.
Does your heart object that it would thwart your schemes of ambition and worldly profit? We pray God that, in this country, the ministry may never become the object of desire to those that are greedy after gain, nor the sacred office become the prey of the covetous and the ambitious. But there is a noble and a holy ambition, —an ambition higher than that of earthly distinction, —a laudable eagerness for imperishable gain. There are laurels that do not fade when the brow grows pale in death, and rewards which become brighter and richer at the very time when all earthly treasure loses its value. And far higher will be the satisfaction with which you will look back on life, from old age and a dying bed, if you can remember souls saved by your instrumentality, and anticipate meeting them as your crown of rejoicing in heaven, than if earth had laid its accumulated treasures at your feet while you, in leaving them, must go to receive your sentence, as one that has spent all for time, and hath no treasure in eternity, —but wrath.
The story of Filippo Neri, the celebrated Italian Reformer, which many have seen, may be pondered, not by the unconverted alone, but by professed Christians as well.
“Filippo was living at one of the Italian Universities. A young man, whom he had known as a boy, ran up to him with a face full of delight, and told him that what he had long been wishing above all things in the world, was at length fulfilled, his parents having just given him leave to study the law; and that thereupon he had come to the law-school, and meant to spare no pains or labor in getting through his studies quickly and as well as possible. In this way he ran on a long time; and when at last he came to stop, the holy man, who had been listening to him with great patience and kindness said,
“Well! And when you have got through your course of studies, what do you mean to do then?’
” ‘Then,’ answered the young man, ‘I shall have a number of difficult and knotty cases to manage, shall catch people’s notice by my eloquence, my zeal, my acuteness, and gain a great reputation.’
” ‘And then?’ repeated the holy man.
” ‘And then,’ replied the youth, –‘why them there can’t be a question, I shall be promoted to some high office or other; besides, I shall make money, and grow rich.’
” ‘And then?’ repeated Filippo.
” ‘And then,” pursued the young lawyer, ‘then I shall live comfortably and honorably in health and dignity, and shall be able to look forward quietly to happy old age.’
” ‘And then?’ added the holy man.
” ‘And then’ said the youth, —‘and then, —and then,—then I shall die.’
“Here Filippo lifted up his voice, and again asked, ‘And then?’ Whereupon the young man made no answer, but cast down his head, and went away.
This last ‘And then?’ had pierced like a flash of lightning into his soul, and he could not get quit of it. Soon after, he forsook the study of the law, and gave himself up to the ministry of Christ, and spent the remainder of his days in godly words and works.”
Perhaps it is objected that you have not remarkable talents. There is sometimes a mischievous and unholy pride lurking under this plea, notwithstanding its seeming humility; and it is, for a man’s own good, important that it be uncovered and abandoned. You would like, it seems, to be a great minister, attracting attention, applause, reputation; but have no heart for plain, humble, unobtrusive usefulness. Beware!
What are the facts in regard to real usefulness? The great majority of those whose labors God has blessed, have been men of no very remarkable talents. The Almighty could have endowed all his servants with eloquence, commanding oratory, intellect, learning; these are gifts entirely within his bestowment. But he has “chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty.” We would not undervalue talent; we would not depreciate learning. We would have all our ministers to prosecute diligently the study of all things which may illustrate the Bible, and bring science in as the subservient handmaid to do homage to the gospel. But it will be a sorrowful day for our churches, when human learning is substituted for piety, or valued more than devotion and integrity; and when the humble, earnest Christian, who loves souls, and has the Master’s anointing for the winning of them, shall be rejected, or discouraged from entering the ministry because he may not come up to some arbitrary standard of scholastic lore.
Do you allege that you feel unworthy? Well you may; for in contemplating the various and extended requirements of the gospel ministry, an apostle could not refrain from exclaiming, “Who is sufficient for these things?” Self-distrust, modesty, diffidence, so far from being disqualifications are necessary prerequisites.
Or do you declare that you dread the responsibility? Is there no responsibility in declining to enter the ministry, in turning away to the crowded professions of law and medicine, to the farm and to merchandise, disregarding the cries of perishing souls? Is there no responsibility in burying in the earth some well-tilled farm, the talent which might have been so usefully employed in the Master’s service?
There is responsibility in the ministerial office! Oh! that ministers felt it more! But, blessed be God, there are precious promises to cheer, and there is great grace to assist. There are trials; but not one too many, —not one more than we need; for the trials of ministers are often intended to fit them the better for their work. The task is great, —too great for human strength, —but not too great for him who, entering on the office as Paul did, “in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling,” has faith to say with Paul, “I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me.”
Lord of the harvest, bend thine ear,
In thine own heritage appear;
Oh, send forth laborers filled with zeal,
Swift to obey their Master’s will.
Our lifted eyes, O Lord behold
The ripening harvest tinged with gold;
Wide fields are opening to our view,
The work is great, the laborers few.
Led by thine own Almighty hand,
Oh let they sons, in many a band
Arise to bless the dying race,
As heralds of redeeming grace.
Lord of the harvest, bid them rise,
Trained by the influence of the skies
In wisdom, knowledge, grace to shine,
Till every kingdom shall be thine.
Published by the American Baptist Publication Society.
A Call to the Ministry
By Rev. Manley Jr. D.D.
Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society
520 Arch Street
The Starless Crown
“They that turn many to righteousness shall shine as the starts forever and ever.” —
Wearied and worn with earthly care, I yielded to repose,
And soon before my raptured sight a glorious vision rose:
I thought whilst slumbering on my couch in midnight’s solemn gloom
I heard an angel’s silver voice, and radiance fill’d my room.
A gentle touch awaken’d me, —a gentle whisper said: “Arise, O
sleeper, follow me;” and thro’ the air we fled,
We left the earth, so far away that like a speck it seem’d,
And heavenly glory, calm and pure, across our pathway stream’d.
Still on we went, —my soul was wrapt in silent ecstasy;
I wonder’d what the end would be, what next should meet mine eye.
I knew not how we journey’d thro’ the pathless fields of light,
When suddenly a change was wrought, and I was clothed in white.
We stood before a city’s walls most glorious to behold;
We pass’d thro’ gates of glistening pearl, o’er streets of purest gold;
It needed not the sun by day, the silver moon by night;
The glory of the Lord was there, the Lamb himself its light;
Bright angels paced the shining streets, sweet music filled the air,
And white-robed saints with glittering crowns, from every clime were there;
And some that I had loved on earth stood with them round the throne,
“All worthy is the Lamb,” they sang, “the glory his alone.”
But fairer far than all beside, I saw my Savior’s face;
And as I gazed he smiled on me with wondrous love and grace.
Lowly I bow’d before his throne, o’erjoyed that I at last
Had gained the object of my hopes; that earth at length was past.
And then in solemn tones he said, “Where is the diadem
That ought to sparkle on they brow, —adorn’d with many a gem?
I know thou hast believed on me, and life through me is thine,
But where are all those radiant stars that in thy crown should shine?
Yonder thou seest a glorious throng, and stars on every brow;
For every soul they led to me they wear a jewel now!
And such thy bright reward had been if such had been thy deed,
If thou hadst sought some wandering feet in path of peace to lead.
I did not mean that thou should’st tread the way of life alone,
But that the clear and shining light which round thy footsteps shone,
Should guide some other weary feet to my bright home of rest,
And thus in blessing those around, thou hadst thyself been blest”
* * * * * * * *
The vision faded from my sight, the voice no longer spake,
A spell seem’d brooding o’er my soul which long I feared to break,
And when at last I gazed around in morning’s glimmering light,
My spirit fell o’erwhelm’d beneath that vision’s awful might.
I rose and wept with chasten’d joy that yet I dwelt below,
That yet another hour was mine my faith by works to show;
That yet some sinner I might tell of Jesus’ dying love,
And help to lead some weary soul to seek a home above.
And now, while on the earth I stay, my motto this shall be,
“To live no longer for myself, but him who died for me!”
And graven on my inmost soul this word of truth divine,
“They that turn many to the Lord bright as the stars shall shine.”