In every period of this earth's history, God has had His men of opportunity, to whom He has said, "Ye are My witnesses." In every age there have been devout men, who gathered up the rays of light as they flashed upon their pathway, and who spoke to the people the words of God. Enoch, Noah, Moses, Daniel, and the long roll of patriarchs and prophets,--these were ministers of righteousness. They were not infallible; they were weak, erring men; but the Lord wrought through them as they gave themselves to His service.
Since His ascension, Christ the great Head of the church, has carried forward His work in the world by chosen ambassadors, through whom He speaks to the children of men, and ministers to their needs. The position of those who have been called of God to labour in word and doctrine for the upbuilding of His church, is one of grave responsibility. In Christ's stead they are to beseech men and women to be reconciled to God; and they can fulfil their mission only as they receive wisdom and power from above.
God's ministers are symbolised by the seven stars, which He who is the first and the last has under His special care and protection. The sweet influences that
are to be abundant in the church are bound up with these ministers of God, who are to represent the love of Christ. The stars of heaven are under God's control. He fills them with light. He guides and directs their movements. If He did not, they would become fallen stars. So with His ministers. They are but instruments in His hands, and all the good they accomplish is done through His power.
It is to the honour of Christ that He makes His ministers a greater blessing to the church, through the working of the Holy Spirit, than are the stars to the world. The Saviour is to be their efficiency. If they will look to Him as He looked to His Father, they will do His works. As they make God their dependence, He will give them His brightness to reflect to the world.
Christ's ministers are the spiritual guardians of the people entrusted to their care. Their work has been likened to that of watchmen. In ancient times, sentinels were often stationed on the walls of cities, where, from points of vantage, they could overlook important points to be guarded, and give warning of the approach of an enemy. Upon their faithfulness depended the safety of all within. At stated intervals they were required to call to one another, to make sure that all were awake, and that no harm had befallen any. The cry of good cheer or of warning was borne from one to another, each repeating the call till it echoed round the city.
To every minister the Lord declares: "O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at My mouth, and warn them from Me. When I say unto the wicked, O
wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it, . . . thou hast delivered thy soul."[1 EZE. 33:7-9.]
These words of the prophet declare the solemn responsibility resting upon those who are appointed as guardians of the church, stewards of the mysteries of God. They are to stand as watchmen on the walls of Zion, to sound the note of alarm at the approach of the enemy. If for any reason their spiritual senses become so benumbed that they are unable to discern danger, and through their failure to give warning the people perish, God will require at their hands the blood of those who are lost.
It is the privilege of the watchmen on the walls of Zion to live so near to God, and to be so susceptible to the impressions of His Spirit, that He can work through them to tell sinners of their peril, and point them to the place of safety. Chosen of God, sealed with the blood of consecration, they are to rescue men and women from impending destruction. Faithfully are they to warn their fellow-men of the sure result of transgression, and faithfully are they to safeguard the interest of the church. At no time may they relax their vigilance. Theirs is a work requiring the exercise of every faculty of the being. In trumpet tones their voices are to be lifted, and never should they sound one wavering, uncertain note. Not for wages are they to labour, but because they cannot do otherwise, because they realise that there is a woe upon them if they fail to preach the gospel.
Faithfulness in Service
The minister who is a co-worker with Christ will have a deep sense of the sacredness of his work, and of the toil and sacrifice required to perform it successfully. He does not study his own ease or convenience. He is forgetful of self. In his search for the lost sheep, he does not realise that he himself is weary, cold, and hungry. He has but one object in view,--the saving of the lost.
He who serves under the blood-stained banner of Emmanuel often has that to do which calls for heroic effort and patient endurance. But the soldier of the cross stands unshrinkingly in the forefront of the battle. As the enemy presses the attack against him, he turns to the Stronghold for aid; and as he brings to the Lord the promises of the Word, he is strengthened for the duties of the hour. He realises his need of strength from above. The victories that he gains do not lead to self-exaltation, but cause him to lean more and more heavily on the Mighty One. Relying upon that power, he is enabled to present the message of salvation so forcibly that it awakens an answering chord in other minds.
The Lord sends His ministers to hold forth the word of life, to preach, not "philosophy and vain deceit," nor "science falsely so called," but the gospel, "the power of God unto salvation."[2 COL. 2:8; 1 TIM. 6:20; ROM. 1:16.] "I charge thee therefore," Paul wrote to Timothy, "before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure
sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry."[3 2 TIM. 4:1-5.] In this charge every minister has his work outlined,--a work that he can do only through the fulfilment of the promise that Jesus gave to His disciples, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end."[4 MATT. 28:20.]
Ministers of the gospel, God's messengers to their fellow-men, should never lose sight of their mission and their responsibilities. If they lose their connection with heaven, they are in greater danger than others, and can exert a stronger influence for wrong. Satan watches them continually, waiting for some weakness to develop, through which he may make a successful attack upon them. And how he triumphs when he succeeds! for an ambassador for Christ, off his guard, allows the great adversary to secure many souls to himself.
The true minister will do nothing that would belittle his sacred office. He will be circumspect in deportment, and wise in his course of action. He will work as Christ worked; he will do as Christ did. He will use all his powers in carrying the tidings of salvation to those who know it not. A deep hunger for the righteousness of Christ will fill his heart. Feeling his need, he will seek earnestly for the power that must come to him before he can present in simplicity, truthfulness, and humility the truth as it is in Jesus.
Examples of Human Steadfastness
God's servants receive no honour or recognition from the world. Stephen was stoned because he preached Christ and Him crucified. Paul was imprisoned, beaten, stoned, and finally put to death, because he was a faithful messenger of God to the Gentiles. The apostle John was banished to the Isle of Patmos, "for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ."[5 REV. 1:9.] These examples of human steadfastness in the might of divine power, are a witness to the world of the faithfulness of God's promises, of His abiding presence and sustaining grace.
No hope of glorious immortality lights up the future of the enemies of God. The great military commander conquers nations, and shakes the armies of half the world; but he dies of disappointment, and in exile. The philosopher who ranges in thought through the universe, everywhere tracing the manifestations of God's power and delighting in their harmony, often fails to behold in these marvellous wonders the Hand that formed them all. "Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish." [6 PS. 49:20.] But God's heroes of faith are heirs to an inheritance of greater value than any earthly riches,--an inheritance that will satisfy the longings of the soul. By the world they may be unknown and unacknowledged, but in the record books above they are enrolled as citizens of heaven, and an exalted greatness, an eternal weight of glory, will be theirs.
The greatest work, the noblest effort, in which men can engage, is to point sinners to the Lamb of God. True ministers are co-labourers with the Lord in the accomplishment of His purposes. God says to them, Go,
teach and preach Christ. Instruct and educate all who know not of His grace, His goodness, and His mercy. Teach the people. "How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?"[7 ROM. 10:14.]
"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!" "Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the Lord hath comforted His people, He hath redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord hath made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God."[8 ISA. 52:7, 9, 10.]
Workers for Christ are never to think, much less to speak, of failure in their work. The Lord Jesus is our efficiency in all things; His Spirit is to be our inspiration; and as we place ourselves in His hands, to be channels of light, our means of doing good will never be exhausted. We may draw upon His fullness, and receive of that grace which has no limit.