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does not watch closely he will begin to grumble and complain, will indulge a spirit of acerbity and censoriousness, will become pessimistic, morose, and misanthropic. He will fall a sad-faced victim, not to “revelries,” but to rivalries, and sink into a crabbed old age that sulks and glowers in sullen gloom.
3. Love of Approbation. Every preacher is strongly tempted to lower his standard for the sake of popularity. The praise of men is sweet to him. Like his Master he shrinks from the cross that inevitably awaits those who deal strenuously and unflinchingly with the sins of their age. But unlike his Master he does not always go forward unfalteringly in the pathway of duty. Smiles, he can hardly help feeling, are preferable to frowns, dollars to dimes, deference to denials and dismissals. If he caters to the worldliness of leading church members he is hailed as a royal good fellow, if he smites it with plain-spoken rebuke he is denounced as a meddlesome and impracticable fanatic. Shall he deliver his message and be true to his conscience, or shall he palter and falter that he may sit in the high places of the synagogue? It is a test that will search him through and through whether he be in a prominent pulpit or a less conspicuous one, for he will meet pretty much the same human nature everywhere, a human nature that likes to be patted on the back but resents much interference with its foibles and delinquencies. “Like people like priest,” said the old Israelite prophet. And this is ever the danger that the people, by their very mass and multitude, holding, moreover, the mighty power of the purse, being well able, and often quite willing, to make it uncomfortble for him who annoys them by unpalatable truth-telling, will cause that truth-telling to be so difficult and unprofitable that the preacher will compromise and confine himself to speaking smooth things under the plea that he must preserve his influence and not drive folks away from him if he is to do them good. The evil one sought again and again, in this very way, to induce Jesus to depart in some little degree from the path of suffering and death. He failed there, but he has too often succeeded with Christ's representatives. It is probably their subtlest peril, the sort of attack before which more go down than before any other one thing.
4. Adulation. This is not so large or general a hindrance as the other three, and is, in most cases, pretty fully counteracted by the complaints and detractions that commonly go along with
it in the day's work. Nevertheless, it is a real danger which the
average minister is pretty sure to meet. He will be flattered by certain people. He will associate a good deal of the time with those that look up to him with something of revererke and accept whatever he says as just about right. And the minister, if he be susceptible on that side, readily puffed up, góts to imagine that he is exempt from ordinary rules of conduct, and can follow a slightly different standard from that which is exacted of other people. Where very serious consequences do not follow from this thought-as is occasionally the case-it is apt to take the manliness out of him. He becomes impatient of resistance to his will, disposed to put down with a strong hand (or at least a rough one) all who venture to differ from him in opinion, accounting them enemies of righteousness because they are unwilling to accept him as the incarnation of right reason and sound wisdom. One old writer exhorts young ministers to pray that they may be delivered from “the bleating of the sheep.” If they get their ears so filled with it that there is affinity for no other sounds they will be incapacitated for taking the place of men in the world and doing the best grade of work. The preacher needs to be praised occasionally lest he sink into discouragement through failure to see any results from his toil, but a continual diet of honeyed words is not wholesome for him ; if they do not make him sick they will be apt to produce that effect on all who are brought into contact with him.
It does not come within our purpose just now to set forth with any fullness the other side of this picture and to present the special advantages which the preacher enjoys for the cultivation of his inner life. Such help unquestionably he has. He associates with the very best people in the community. He is brought into contact with the best books, the noblest thoughts, the most inspiring themes. He is in constant attendance at all sorts of means of grace. He has more leisure for devotion than most other busy people. His very employment compels it, drawing him to his knees in sheer despair of accomplishing anything otherwise. The responsibilities of his position aid in steadying and solemnizing him. He has many prayers offered for him and much good counsel given him. He can backslide, as many painful illustrations prove, but it must be in the face of manifold incentives to a different course, and so must bring peculiarly heavy penalty. Passing all this by, however, we feel
m od to use a little space in the endeavor to state what, in
ninion, the preacher chiefly needs in order to make the most o jimself for God in this extremely important department of his being. His hindrances being such as have been above described how can he best overcome them?
1. We needs, above all, to maintain constant communion with God. These words, perhaps, are often on his lips, but is their deep signification fully realized ? The attainment they indicate is a very great thing, not to be lightly secured, and a very precious thing, well worth all it costs. What does it mean, this sacred fellowship divine? It means that the presence of Him who is at once our glorious Master and our bosom Friend has become so profound a reality that it is distinctly recognized each hour, almost each moment, of every day. It means that we take everything to him, do everything for him, enjoy everything with him, accomplish everything by him, receive everything from him, look ever toward him, lean at all times upon him, and, in short, live, move, and have our being in him. It means that he is the sum and substance, the center and circumference of our inmost existence, of our truest life, and that without him-apart from his realized help, his conscious approval, his imparted power-we will not even attempt to do aught; we should not dare to, we could not bear to. It points to so close and confidential an intercourse that we take hold of nothing, however small, on which we do not first ask his blessing, and that we feel perfectly free to consult him in regard to all the minute events of all the days. The association is so intimate that thoughts and feelings are communicated both ways, from him to us and from us to him, without restraint or hindrance. From long companionship we come to know by a sort of instinct what will please him, and we quickly shrink from anything that would obstruct the flow of mutual sympathy. The community of interest is complete. Prayer is turned into a sort of conversation, and the conversation often goes on without the passing of words. So immediate is the touch of spirits that silence conveys often more than language, that which no language can express.
The preacher who has gained a large degree of this oneness with his Lord will certainly be delivered from all undue susceptibility to the praise and flattery of his fellow-men. He will be very little tempted to substitute their standard of right for that with which he is supplied by his divine companion. Their weak words will not weigh much with him while he listens so constantly to the mind of the great Leader by whose side he is permitted to walk. He will be careless concerning any socalled success which is on a lower plane than his Friend can fully sanction. How to attain this indispensable communion? It can be secured in no way that stops short of the utmost concentration of purpose, and the resolute thrusting away of whatever practices are inconsistent with its single-eyed pursuit. The spirit of frivolity that stores the mind with trashy trifles does not conduce to the most vivid realization of the presence of God. And those popular ministrations to the flesh which are so generally indulged in by worldly society certainly do not predispose to prayer or further the habit of mind which makes the things of the soul paramount. Only with a great sum can this citizenship be obtained. Half-hearted efforts will avail nothing. Deep desire and patient faith hold the keys of the situation.
2. The preacher also needs, to combat his special trials, a cast-iron faith in divine providence. That is, a faith inflexible and unwavering, on the truth that God does, or suffers to be done, all things that come to pass on the realm of external events. The preacher needs this to protect him from the inrush of uncomfortable thoughts and feelings in regard to his appointments, and his lot in life as compared with that of others whom he is tempted to envy. He needs it to keep him happy and peaceful when things do not go to his liking, when God appears to have forgotten him, and evil seems to have the upper hand. He must, when these perplexities and conflicts throng in upon him, say, God reigns, and therein will I rejoice. He must say, in every smallest thing as well as in the large, in the events that appear to come through the malice or mistakes of men, or even through his own foolish blunders, infirmities, and sins, the gracious hand of God is to be seen, the wise, loving, purpose of the Father is to be recognized, the helpful chastisement is to be welcomed, the blessing in disguise is to be gladly accepted. He must say this, and believe it. There is no other path to perfect peace. He may wonder and be amazed, may admit his ignorance and wait for future explanation, but if he gives way in the smallest degree to repining he does himself a harm, he displeases the Lord, he becomes an injury to others. He cannot afford to take, even temporarily, this position. Serenity, tranquillity, contentment, victory over circumstances, are essential to the best doing of his work, and to his exemplification before the people of the principles of New Testament salvation. Let him cultivate, then, this faith, train himself into the habit of it, cause it to grow by constant exercise, this faith which receives all results as from God. Thus, having done in his own behalf or in behalf of those for whom he labors, whatever seems right, whatever he can without infringing upon true humility, genuine self-respect, and cordial love for others, having done all things which the occasion seems to call for and conscience to approve, he will heartily accept the outcome as that which is going to prove to be the very best for his highest good. He who can do this has discovered a secret better than that of perpetual youth or unlimited gold, and has solved the chief problem of life.
3. The preacher's special peril of officialism can be helpfully guarded against by participation, as frequent as possible, in gatherings where he will not be an official but a mere private member, where he will meet others who are his equals or supe. riors, without responsibility except for his own personal good. If he can join some little circle that meets weekly or monthly for spiritual research and religious stimulation he will be likely to receive aid in the sustenance of his inner life that ordinary meetings do not furnish. If two million souls are to be gained for the Methodist Episcopal Church during the next three years its ministers must walk very close with God, cherish an overcoming faith, and often get together to help one another to higher degrees of faith, consecration, and concentration.
ROBERT BROWNING IN HIS WIFE'S LETTERS.*
On September 12, 1846, when Robert Browning was thirtysix and Elizabeth Barrett was forty, they were married in St. Marylebone Church, London. On June 29, 1861, in Casa Guidi, on the Via Maggio, Florence, Italy, she died, smiling, in his arms, her head resting on his cheek; and of the peaceful. ness of her departure the husband, whose strong arms held her fragile form against his heart, wrote to a friend: “God took
* The Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Two volumes. New York: The Macmillan Company. Price, cloth, $4.