Youth is not an adequate preparation for this task: a man must live and grow. To deal with such themes and occasions, there must appear in the world lives of such vigor that they can command; of such charm, that they can attract; of such wisdom, that they can guide and comfort; of such vitality, that they can inspire. And hence there rises before the mind’s eye a figure that is both knightly and kingly—a man earnest in the redress of wrong, and who yet holds a subtle authority over the forces that make for wrong; a man burdened with the cares and sorrows of many others, and yet conducting his own life with serenity, enthusiasm, dignity, and hope; a man to whose keen yet tender gaze a life-history is revealed by a word or tone, but whose own eyes receive their light from God. A prophet and a father, a priest and a counsellor, a brother, friend, and judge, a sacrifice and an inspiration should he be who, in reverence and love, brings before a waiting congregation the very Word of Life!
1. The primary rule is over conscience. The man who sways a conscience sways a human life. The man who sways a nation’s conscience controls that nation’s life. To rule conscience, a man must himself be unprejudiced and well informed. He must strive, not to keep up an unhealthy excitement which shall make conscience introspective and morbid, but to preserve a sane moral outlook, to encourage freedom of thought and judgment, and to develop a normal conscience which reacts promptly against wrong. Conscience measures our inner recoil from evil. The power of a preacher is in direct proportion to the energy with which he reveals sin in the heart of man, and wakes his whole nature against its insidious power.
Sin is. To-day, sin is thought a somewhat brusque word, lacking in polish. To use it frequently is a mark of lack of ’savoir-faire! Indeed to speak of it at all is as archaic as to speak of the Ichthyosaurus. But sin is a root-fact of the life of man. It is the office of the spiritual teacher to pluck out sin; to pierce the heart with a recognition of the enormity of sin, and of its far-reaching consequences; to stir the seared conscience, rouse the apathetic life, thrill the spiritual imagination, and to quicken the heart to better love and to nobler dreams. He rebukes the private sins of individuals and the public sins of nations. In the Faerie Queene, the “soul-diseased knight” was in a state
“In which his
torment often was so great,
That like a lyon he would cry and rare,
And rend his flesh, and his own synewes eat.”
But Fidelia, like the faithful pastor, was both
with her word to kill,
And raise againe to life the heart that she did thrill.”