The standard-bearers are falling, and young men must be prepared to take the places left vacant, that the message may still be proclaimed. The aggressive warfare is to be extended. Those who have youth and strength are to go into the dark places of the earth, to call perishing souls to repentance. But they must first cleanse the soul-temple of all impurity, and enthrone Christ in the heart.
To every young man who enters the ministry, Paul's words to Timothy are spoken, "Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine."[2 1 TIM. 4:16.] "Thyself" needs the first attention. First give yourself to the Lord for purification and sanctification. A godly example will tell more for the truth than the greatest eloquence, unaccompanied by a well-ordered life. Trim the lamp of the soul, and replenish it with the oil of the Spirit.
Seek from Christ that grace, that clearness of comprehension, which will enable you to do successful work. Learn from Him what it means to work for those for whom He gave His life.
"Take heed," first to yourself, and then to the doctrine. Do not let your heart become hardened by sin. Closely examine your manners and habits. Compare them with the word of God, and then cut away from the life every wrong habit and indulgence. Kneel before God, and plead with Him for an understanding of His word. Be sure that you know the real principles of the truth; and then when you meet opponents, it will not be in your own strength; and angel of God will stand by your side, to help in answering every question that may be asked. Day by day you are to be shut in, as it were, with Jesus; and then your words and example will have a strong influence for good.
No Excuse for Ignorance
Some who enter the ministry do not feel the burden of the work. They have false ideas of the qualifications of a minister. They think that it requires little close study of the sciences or of the word of God in order to gain a fitness for the ministry. Some who are teaching present truth are so deficient in Bible knowledge that it is difficult for them to quote a text of Scripture correctly from memory. By blundering along in the awkward manner that they do, they sin against God. They wrest the Scriptures, and make the Bible say things that are not written therein.
Some think that an education or a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures is of little consequence if only a man has the Spirit. But God never sends His Spirit
to sanction ignorance. He may and does pity and bless those who are so situated that it is impossible for them to obtain an education; and sometimes He condescends to make His strength perfect in their weakness. But it is the duty of such to study His word. A lack of knowledge in the sciences is no excuse for a neglect of Bible study; for the words of inspiration are so plain that the unlearned may understand them.
Young ministers should make themselves useful wherever they are. When visiting people in their homes, they should not be idle, making no effort to help those whose hospitality they share. Obligations are mutual; if the minister shares the hospitality of his friends, it is his duty to respond to their kindness by thoughtfulness and consideration in his conduct toward them. The entertainer may be a man of care and hard labour. By manifesting a disposition, not only to wait upon himself, but to render timely assistance to others, the minister may often find access to the heart, and open the way for the reception of truth.
The love of ease, and, I may say, physical laziness, unfits a man to be a minister. Those who are preparing to enter the ministry should train themselves to do hard physical work; then they will be better able to do hard thinking.
Let young men set up well-defined landmarks, by which they may be governed in emergencies. When a crisis comes that demands active, well-developed physical powers and a clear, strong, practical mind; when
difficult work is to be done, where every stroke must tell; when perplexities arise which can be met only by wisdom from on high, then the youth who have learned to overcome difficulties by earnest labour can respond to the call for workers.
The Necessity for Steadfastness
In Paul's letter to Timothy there are many lessons for the young minister to learn. The aged apostle urged upon the younger worker the necessity of steadfastness in the faith, "I put thee in remembrance," he wrote, "that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands. For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God."
Paul entreated Timothy to remember that he had been called "with a holy calling" to proclaim the power of Him who had "brought life and immortality to light through the gospel: whereunto," he declared, "I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day."[3 2 TIM. 1:6-12.]
Wherever Paul was,--whether before scowling Pharisees, or Roman authorities; before the furious mob at Lystra, or the convicted sinners in the Macedonian dungeon; whether reasoning with the panic-stricken
sailors on the shipwrecked vessel, or standing alone before Nero to plead for his life,-- he had never been ashamed of the cause he was advocating. The one great purpose of his Christian life had been to serve Him whose name had once filled him with contempt; and from this purpose no opposition or persecution had been able to turn him aside. His faith, made strong by effort and pure by sacrifice, upheld and strengthened him.
"Thou therefore, my son," Paul continued, "be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ."[4 2 TIM. 2:1-3.]
The true minister of God will not shun hardship or responsibility. From the Source that never fails those who sincerely seek for divine power, he draws strength that enables him to meet and overcome temptation, and to perform the duties that God places upon him. The nature of the grace that he receives, enlarges his capacity to know God and His Son. His soul goes out in longing desire to do acceptable service for the Master. And as he advances in the Christian pathway, he becomes "strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." This grace enables him to be a faithful witness of the things that he has heard. He does not despise or neglect the knowledge that he has received from God, but commits this knowledge to faithful men, who in their turn teach others.
In this his last letter to Timothy, Paul held up before the younger worker a high ideal, pointing out the duties devolving on him as a minister of Christ.
"Study to show thyself approved unto God," the apostle wrote, "a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." "Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth."[5 2 TIM. 2:15, 22-25.] -- "The Acts of the Apostles," pages 499-502.