Since the minister in a sense belongs to everybody, everybody has something to say about his work and how it ought to be done; and what they have to say will recall the answer of Christ to the scribes and Pharisees: "We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented" (Matt. 11:17). The people of that day didn't like John, because the stern ascetic came neither eating nor drinking; and when Jesus came eating and drinking, they said, "Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners" (Matt. 11:19). Human nature has not changed since then. But still preaching is justified of her children.
If the minister has no wife, he certainly needs one. If he has one, he must have been handcuffed and blindfolded when he picked her out. If his wife knows how to dress, she is worldly. If she goes about in the style of the gay nineties, she is a disgrace to the congregation. If she speaks in the missionary society, she is trying to run the church. If she sings in the choir, she has a voice like a magpie.
If the minister is quiet, dignified, and reserved, he is cold, if he goes about slapping men on the back and telling stories, he ought to have been a traveling salesman or president of the Kiwanis Club. If he preaches without notes, he is not deep enough. If he reads his sermons, he is too deep, and dry. If he preaches on the great doctrines, he ought to preach practical sermons. If he preaches practical sermons, he ought to go down deeper and get hold of the great doctrines of the gospel. If he calls on the rich, he is a snob. If he calls on the poor, he is playing to the galleries.
But still preaching will be justified of her children.
John Milton has a great passage in which he gives us his idea of what the character of a poet ought to be. He says: "He who would not be frustrated of his hope to write well ought himself to be a true poem—not presuming to sing high praises of heroic men and women or famous cities, unless he have in himself the experience and practice of all that which is praiseworthy."
Dr. David J. Burrell related a story of Norman Macleod. A woman of his parish in Glasgow was fallen sick with a most grievous and contagious sickness. Instead of calling in her own minister she called in the minister of a neighboring parish. After a few moment's conversation, he learned that the woman belonged to Dr. Macleod's parish. In surprise and with a little annoyance he said, "Why in the world did you not call Dr. Macleod?"
The answer was one that only a loyal Scottish parishioner could ever give: "Hoots! mon; we canna spare Normie."
If you love and cherish your minister after that manner, all will be well.
Waiting for God's leading, Bishop Simpson went once to a prayer meeting, thinking in his heart that he ought to speak at the meeting. To his surprise his uncle said to him, "Don't you think you could speak to the people tonight?" That night he made his first Christian address. At once men saw his ability, and he was invited to preach; but still he declined. He was restrained partly by the consideration that he was the only one at home with his widowed mother, and he could not bear the thought of leaving her. But one day he ventured to introduce the subject to his mother. With a smile on her face, and tears in her eyes, his mother said, "My son, I have been looking for this hour ever since you were born."
Simpson used to relate this incident, and always with moving and telling effect, when he was at the height of his fame as a minister.
The poet who wrote the book of Genesis tells how a river went out of Eden to water the garden, and from thence was divided into four heads, and how the first "compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; and the gold of that land is good (2:11-12).
You are going out today into the land of Christian ministry, "where there is gold." You will have to search for it and dig for it, and toil for it, and suffer for it; but the gold is there— "and the gold of that land is good."